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Donoho hangs tough, helps lead Highland to Troy Invitational crown

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TROY, Ill. — Sophia Donoho crumpled to the ground in pain.

The Highland High sophomore pitcher took a vicious line drive off the right shin in the third inning of Saturday's contest against Murphysboro.

Initially, Donoho appeared to be seriously hurt. She tried to get up and retrieve the ball, but fell back down in a heap.

"It burned a little at first," Donoho said. "Then, after a few seconds, it was no big deal."

Her performance in the circle certainly was a big deal.

Donoho went on to twirl her second gem of the day in helping the Bulldogs to a 4-1 win in the championship game of the Triad Softball Tournament.

The right-hander gave up six hits and one run in rolling to her second win in six hours. She tossed a two-hit shutout in a 2-0 triumph over Hardin Calhoun, a Class 1A toughie, in a morning opening-round game from the eight-team affair.

Thanks in part to Donoho, the Bulldogs (13-8) are clicking on all cylinders heading into post-season play in eight days.

The gutsy two-game effort Saturday drew rave reviews from her teammates, who watched in horror as their ace struggled to get to her feet after the line drive.

"It was scary," junior catcher Kelly Fuller said.

Added sophomore infielder Sophie Parkerson, "She's tough, she always hangs in there."

Actually, Donoho seemed to throw better after taking the blow. The drive by Murphysboro sophomore Sarah Cook was the fifth hit in two-plus innings. It put runners on first and second with nobody out.

After a short delay to shake off the pain, Donoho set the next three players down in order. She gave up just one more hit in the five-inning contest, which was shortened by time constraints — a fifth hitting homer to Taby Young.

Otherwise, Donoho was in control in improving her record to 10-6.

"She's not a big kid, but she gets everything out of her frame, everything out of her physique," Highland coach Glenn Nicholls said. "And she really hits her spots. Inside, outside, she just makes good pitches."

Nicholls had a lump in his throat when he initially saw Donoho hit the ground.

"At first, I thought this could be bad," Nicholls said. "Then she stood right up and said, 'I'm good to go, Coach,' like nothing happened."

Parkerson supplied Donoho with all the necessary support by kick-starting the Bulldogs to a four-run explosion in the fourth inning. Parkerson drove in the first run of the game with a well-executed squeeze bunt. It came on the very next pitch after she failed to get the bunt down.

"We know that the bunt is a big part of our game," Parkerson said. "I just had to find a gap and a place to put the ball."

The hit opened the flood gates for three more runs. Senior Breanna Habermehl followed with a run-scoring single and Fuller completed the blitz with two-run, bases-loaded hit for a 4-0 lead.

Highland, the defending Class 3A state champion, won its eighth successive game and carries plenty of momentum heading into regional play.

The Bulldogs lost several key players from the championship team, including pitcher Sam Miener and slugger Sydney Parkerson. They also dropped eight of their first 13 contests this season.

But this group has come together at the right time.

"The lineup is a little more fluid," Nicholls said. "Everybody is getting a little more comfortable."

Including Donoho, who struggled at times earlier in the season.

"It took a couple games for me to get the butterflies out," Donoho said. "But we're rolling now."

Murphysboro (17-12) claimed the runner-up prize in a tournament for the third time this season.

The Red Devils had numerous early chances, but left seven runners on through the first four frames.

"We had our opportunities, we just couldn't take care of business," Murphysboro coach Kim Cook said. "The difference was (Parkerson) getting that bunt down. They executed and we didn't."

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