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Hot-Hitting Highland Reverses Golden Rule

High school softball: Bulldogs defeat old nemesis Quartz Hill, 7-1, to clinch share of first league title.


PALMDALE — It was about doggone time.

After eight years of frustration, heartaches and bad breaks, Highland High can finally call itself Golden League softball champion.

The Bulldogs, perennial runners-up, clinched a share of their first title on Tuesday with a 7-1 victory over visiting Quartz Hill, the four-time defending league champion and Highland's longtime nemesis.

Highland (17-7, 8-1 in league play), which can claim the title outright with a victory on Thursday against last-place Antelope Valley, ended a seven-game losing streak to the Rebels (16-7, 7-2).

Quartz Hill had made a tradition of finding unique ways to shatter Highland's title hopes. A 1-0 game in eight innings last month marked the fourth consecutive extra-inning victory for Quartz Hill over the Bulldogs.

"I've been waiting eight years for this," Coach Glenda Potts said. "This feels even better than I imagined."

Highland's dugout was filled with good-luck charms. From pitcher Nichole Rawson's special steel bulldog paperweight to sister Natalie Rawson's fancy new haircut to Potts' lucky, hole-filled socks, nothing was left to chance.

The Bulldogs had eight hits off Mandi Ricker (14-4) and scored three runs, two unearned, in the first inning to take control.

Not that Highland needed much offense, with junior right-hander Nichole Rawson (14-6) in the circle.

Rawson allowed three hits--none after the third inning--faced four batters over the minimum and needed only 68 pitches to muffle a Rebel lineup that was batting .348.

"I just did what I do best," said Nichole Rawson, who struck out four and got 16 outs on groundballs. "I'm a groundball pitcher, so I let my defense do the work."

Now, it's the Rebels who must work. Quartz Hill, which entered Tuesday's game needing a victory for a share of its ninth league title in 11 seasons, will finish third if it loses to Lancaster (15-10, 7-2) in a league finale on Thursday.

Lancaster won the previous meeting, 9-7.

"It was going to happen sooner or later," co-Coach Ben Meyer of Quartz Hill said of his team's loss to the Bulldogs. "This is good. It will be a new experience for us."

Highland, batting about .290, has had better offensive teams but none as balanced or confident. The Bulldogs have outscored league opponents, 65-8.

"We're killing the ball right now," shortstop Natalie Rawson said. "Every single person is putting the bat on the ball."

Against Quartz Hill, the top seven batters in the lineup reached base 20 times in 27 plate appearances.

Robyn Hauptman and Meaghan Stewart each had two hits. Natalie Rawson doubled. Keri Pulcifer scored three runs.

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