Sports

Butler’s blast helps to lift Lady Highlanders over Sunny Hills

Nikki Butler high-fives head coach Frank McCarroll as she rounds third base after hitting a three-run home run in the fifth inning of La Habra's 8-4 win over Sunny Hills, Thursday on the road.
Nikki Butler high-fives head coach Frank McCarroll as she rounds third base after hitting a three-run home run in the fifth inning of La Habra’s 8-4 win over Sunny Hills, Thursday on the road.

Story and photos by Erik Markus
La Habra Journal

Nikki Butler took three pitches to her knee before she finally responded with a home run to propel the La Habra girls’ softball team to an 8-4 win over Sunny Hills, Thursday afternoon on the road.

The three-run shot was part of a five-run rally for the Lady Highlanders, who took the lead late in the ball game.

The Lady Highlanders had no trouble putting runners on base, however through four innings, they led by just one run.

“Early on we put pressure on them, couldn’t get that big hit, then eventually one of our stars took care of business,” said Frank McCarroll, La Habra head coach.

In the fifth inning, the big hits came. With the bases loaded Racquel Manzo hit a line drive to left field. The ball was moving so fast that the left fielder only clipped it with her glove before she turned to chase it. Two runs scored on the play, and the Lady Highlanders were in business.

Two batters later, Nikki Butler came up ready to break the game open. Butler had visited first base three straight times after being hit by pitches.

“After three hit-by-pitches, I knew she wasn’t going to come at me with anything fat but when she left it over the plate and up in my zone I knew I needed to take advantage of it,” Butler said.

Butler crushed the pitch and sent it to deep centerfield.

Nikki Butler connects and sends a pitch over the center field fence for a three-run home run in the fifth inning, Thursday afternoon.
Nikki Butler connects and sends a pitch over the center field fence for a three-run home run in the fifth inning, Thursday afternoon.

“She’s a stud, she’s legit she’s going to go off to college and be D1 somewhere and play big time college softball, you’re going to see her on TV and more importantly she’s a great kid,” McCarroll said about his sophomore catcher.

The Lady Highlanders had been drilled six times total on the day, however coach McCarroll had no doubt they were unintentional.

“That’s not what they’re about, they’re a quality program,” McCarroll said, “What crossed my mind is they’re pretty smart not pitching to her, because look what happens when you do.”

The game was indicative of the rivalry between two teams who shared the league title last year. With the road victory, the Highlanders position themselves early for a strong run, however Butler intends to stay focused and prepared against the Lady Lancers.

“They will come back at our house even stronger wanting to beat us,” Butler said.

The Lady Highlanders played with energy and chanted the entire game to get in the heads of their opponent.

“The energy, the enthusiasm, the camaraderie, working together, we talked about being a team and in a team sport, not everyone gets to play,” McCarroll said, “we’ve got some good players, we’ve got kids that could play probably wherever but they’re up here working their butts off to be part of it.”

In addition to complimenting his whole team’s effort, he especially highlighted Butler’s hot streak.

“She’s a leader, she’s enthusiastic, the kids respect her, she plays hard, she plays tough, and she always has a smile, what better than that.” McCarroll said.

The three run shot gave the Highlanders a commanding 8-2 lead and plenty of support for Taylor Pierce who completed her second game in league play. With the win they move to 2-0 in Freeway League play and will welcome Troy High School on Tuesday.

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.