The Highland baseball Bulldogs reeled off three non-conference victories to push their winning streak to four games to open the season.
First on Tuesday of last week, the Bulldogs edged visiting Lakes High School (Lake Villa, Ill.) 3-2. Next, on Friday, Highland traveled to Roxana and shattered the Shells 11-2. Finally on Monday, the Bulldogs hosted Breese Central and nipped the Cougars 4-2.
Highland (4-0) is scheduled to host Hinsdale South (Darien, Ill.) today at Glik Park, weather permitting.
Highland 4, Breese Central 2
The Bulldogs survived the Cougars, thanks in large part to the late-game heroics of juniors Will Greenwald and Griffin Welz.
Greenwald made a potential game-saving defensive play, and Welz delivered the game-winning hit.
With the game deadlocked at 2-2 in the top of the sixth inning, Central had two runners on base with two outs, including Brandon Richter, representing the go-ahead run in scoring position at second base.
Brent Timmons lined a single to left field. With Richter rounding third and headed home, Greenwald charged the ball and fired a perfect strike to home plate to senior catcher Matt Augustin, who fielded the one-hop throw perfectly and quickly applied the tag to cut down Richter and end the inning.
Then, with one out in the bottom half, junior Andrew Winning (single) and junior Sam Greene (walk) set the table for Welz.
Welz seized the opportunity and punched a double down the third-base line to plate both Winning and junior Tyler Pollard, who was courtesy running for Greene, to provide the difference.
“The play of the game of course was the play in left field by Will to get that guy at the plate; that was a big play,” said Highland coach Joel Hawkins. “He’s capable of that, and we’ve got some good arms out there. I like our arms… And then Griffin Welz came through with the big hit.”
Highland scored two runs, all with two outs, in the home half of the first on a triple from senior Grant Geppert, an RBI double from Augustin and an RBI single from Winning.
Central tied it up in the fourth on Dillon Smith’s two-run single to drive in Richter and Mitchell Rule, who both walked.
That set the stage for Welz’s game-clinching hit, which made a winner out of junior reliever Matt Beyer, who worked the final 3 1/3 innings in relief of senior left-handed starter Pete Baumgartner.
“A real positve was Matt Beyer getting in there and throwing strikes,” Hawkins said. “And the kids made some good defensive plays out there.”
But Hawkins said his team needs to improve on offense.
“We’re still lacking a little bit with putting an inning together,” he said. “Our running game has got to get better and our bunting game has not existed yet. There are some things we are going to better on. The kids are fine. It’s early in the season, and we’re still learning a lot about our team. And I am excited about them so let’s see what happens.”
Highland 11, Roxana 2
The Bulldogs have long been known under coach Hawkins for their aggressiveness on the base paths. The Shells got an up-close and personal view of that aggressive nature as Highland stole 12 bases after pounding out 12 hits.
Senior Cody Bentlage was the catalyst for the Bulldogs’ offensive bite, going 3-for-4 with four stolen bases, four RBIs and three runs scored.
Senior pitcher Tyler Kimmle got the win for Highland. He allowed one earned run over three innings, walking one and giving up four hits.
Geppert threw three scoreless innings on one hit and two walks while punching out two.
Welz pitched the seventh, giving up one unearned run on two hits whiel striking out two.
Greenwald scored three runs for Highland after reaching base all three times on a hit and two walks and stealing two bases. Geppart added a pair of RBIs for the Bulldogs.
Roxana starter Tanner Davis was the game’s losing pitcher. He allowed six runs (four earned) on seven hits and one walk in four innings.
Shell relievers Sam Mosby and Andrew Webb combined to give up five runs (four earned) over the final three innings.
Roxana managed to grab the early lead in the first off of Logan Reardon’s RBI double to the right-field fence.
The Bulldogs countered that run when Augustine led off with a single and came around to score on a one-out double by Green to tie it up 1-1 through two innings.
Greenwald opened the top half of the third with a single and stole second. After Bentlage reached base on a sacrifice bunt, both came around to score on an error to put Highland up 3-1.
In the fourth, the Bulldogs scored three times, highlighted by a two-run single from Bentlage to widen the gap to 6-1.
Highland pushed across three more runs in the sixth when Bentlage chased home two more runs with a single.
Highland scored twice more in the seventh, and the Shells got a consolation run in the bottom of the inning.
Reardon went 1-for-2 on the day with a double and a RBI and Blake Vandiver was 1-for-3 with a double and a RBI. Foss had a 3-for-4 day while Randy Skiff also had a hit for Roxana.
Tanner Davis took the loss, throwing four innings and giving up six runs (four earned) and seven hits while walking one.
Highland 3, Lakes 2
The Bulldogs jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a single to center from Augustin to plate Geppert, who drew a two-out walk and moved into scoring position when Greene reached on the third baseman’s error.
Highland went hitless over the next five innings, and Lakes pushed across one run in each of the fourth and fifth innings.
The first run was charged against senior starter Baumgartner. The lefty tossed the first 3 1/3 innings and allowed just one hit. But after getting the first out in the fourth, he issued his second free pass of the game and was relieved by Smith.
Smith came in and gave up two hits, including an RBI double which tied the game.
The second run came in the fifth and was pinned on Smith, who gave up a couple of hits and a walk in the inning.
Smith settled down, shutting down Lakes to just one hit and facing the minimum over the next two frames to get Highland through regulation play.
The Bulldogs tied the game in the home half of the seventh. Winning hit a ringing double to center and later scored on a steal of home.
HHS junior reliever Matt Beyer came on in the top of the eighth and sat down Lakes in order on an easy ground out to first and consecutive strikeouts.
Highland pulled out the win in the bottom half. With two outs, Kimmle walked, stole second and then came around to score the walk-off run on Geppert’s game-winning single.