The Highland American Legion Post 439 senior baseball team won back-to-back games in dominant fashion over the Trenton Post 778 Gators (11-3 on Wednesday) and the Belleville Post 58 Hilgards (6-2 on Thursday) to carry momentum in to a big District 22 rematch with the Metro East Bears Monday night at Glik Park.
But Metro East defeated Highland for the second time in two weeks, this time 5-2, to pull off the season sweep of Post 439 in the three-team District 22. The Bears (10-3 overall, 2-1 in District 22) edged Highland 3-1 two weeks ago and now sit in a good position to earn the No. 1 seed for the paired down District 22 Playoff Tournament. The No. 1 seed receives a bye and awaits the winner of the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds. (See playoff schedule with this story.)
The loss dropped Highland (9-7) to 1-2 in the league. Metro East hosted Belleville, 1-1 in district play, Tuesday before the Hilgards travel to Highland’s Glik Park Thursday night.
Metro East 5, Highland 2
On Monday, Jake Garella had a dominant pitching performance for the On Monday, Jake Garella had a dominant pitching performance for the Bears, made up mostly of players from Edwardsville Post 199 and Alton Post 126. Garella also helped himself out with the bat.
on Monday night, but he also helped himself out with the bat.
Garella, a Louisville Slugger Second-Team All-American as a third baseman/pitcher as a senior this spring at Edwardsville High School, went 4-for-4 with two doubles, two RBI and two runs scored. He had nine consecutive hits over his last three games heading into Tuesday’s game against Belleville at SIUE’s Roy E. Lee Field
Garella’s .570 batting average was a school record at Edwardsville. He also had 16 doubles, one triple, four home runs and 36 RBI, while he also went 6-1 with an 0.19 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 37
innings of work.
The Saint Louis University recruit shut out Highland on three hits over the first four innings, including forcing Post 439 to strand a runner at second in each of the first three frames.
Highland finally broke through on Garella with a single tally in the bottom of the fifth, but Metro East had already built a 4-0 lead.
Garella went on to throw six innings, allowing just the one runs on five hits while striking out seven and walking only one. He threw 102 pitches, finishing strong with an eight-pitch sixth inning where he retired Highland quickly in order.
The only hit for the Bears over the first three innings against Highland starter Dillon Hallemann was a two-out double by Garella in the top of the first inning.
However, the Bears grabbed a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning. Garella got it going with a leadoff infield single and advanced to second on a single by Drake Hampton. After both runners moved up on a sacrifice bunt, Garella tagged and scored the game’s first run on a sacrifice fly from Jacob Kanallakan.
The Bears took control of the game with three runs in the top of the fifth. Mitchell Krebs got a one-out bunt single and scored on a two-out double to left field by Collin Clayton.
Garella followed with an RBI double to left, bringing home Clayton. The two-out hitting continued as Hampton drove in Garella on a single to left, moving to second base on the throw.
Hallemann was charged with the loss to fall to an 2-2 record on the season after giving up four earned runs on seven hits and two walks in five innings.
In the bottom of the fifth, Highland got on the board after Blaine Ray hit a one out single, went to second on a wild pitch and came around to score on a single to left by Austin Gusewelle.
The Bears got the run back in the top of the seventh against Highland reliever Jake Ramsey, who pitched the last two innings. Cole Cimarolli drew a one-out walk, stole second base and scored on a two-out single down the right field line by Garella to make it a four-run advantage again.
Maverick McSparin took over the pitching duties for Metro East in the bottom of the seventh. He allowed a one-out walk to Griffin Welz and a two-out walk to Blaine Ray. After both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch, Cody Bentlage hit a sacrifice fly to center to plate Welz to complete the scoring.
Highland 6, Belleville 2
Michael McGill set the tone for the victory by going the distance and shutting down the host Hilgards on just two unearned runs, four hits and one walk while fanning six to hike his season record to 3-1. McGill has not allowed any earned runs through 25 innings covering four starts this spring.
“It was a great win, it just seemed easy, it seemed fluid,” Highland coach Harry Painter said. “Michael pitched extraordinary. He was stronger in the seventh than he was in the first and second innings. He was coming up on 90 pitches in the seventh, and I told Jake Ramsey to get ready just in case, but the way Michael was dealing late. We did not need to make a chance, because he was darn near perfect.”
McGill struck out the first two batters before inducing an easy ground out to second to end the game.
Hallemann and Chris Dickman led the offense with two his apiece. Hallemann also doubled, knocked in a run and scored two while Dickman also drove in one.
In addition, Matt Augustin chipped in one hit and a pair of RBI, Jordan Smith added a hit and two runs, and Steven Diaz had a hit and one run.
Highland took a 6-0 lead before Belleville scored two runs in vain with one in each of the fifth and sixth frames.
Post 439 pushed across a pair of tallies in the second. After Jordan Smith singled, Welz reached on a one-out infield single and Dickman singled to load the bases, Trent Carriger was hit by a pitch to force home Smith with the game’s first run and Ray hit an RBI ground out to to score Welz.
Post 439 busted it wide open with a three-run third. Diaz led off with an infield single and Hallemann slugged a double to drive him home. After Smith coaxed a walk, Augustin’s ground out to third plated Hallemann before Dickman slapped an RBI single to chase Smith home and bury the Hilgars in a 5-0 hole.
Highland wrapped up the triumph with a run in the sixth after Hallemann singled and later scored on a single by Augustin.
Highland 11, Trenton 3
Post 439 banged out 10 hits and took advantage of five Gator errors to coast to a relatively easy victory.
Ray paced the offense after reaching base safely in all four plate appearances. After being hit by a pitch in his first at-bat, Ray went a perfect 3-for-3 with a double, two RBI and three runs scored.
After Trenton grabbed its only lead in the top of the third with a single run, Highland rallied for a four-run bottom half.
Bentlage got it started with a single, stole second and went to third on an ensuing error on the play. Ray followed by socking a double to left to knock in Bentlage to tie the game at 1-1 before coming around to score himself on the second straight error on Trenton’s catcher to give Post 439 the lead for good.
Post 439 capitalized on a third error and sent all nine batters to the plate. Jake Ramsey capped off the spurt with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-1.
Highland tacked on another run in the home half of the fourth to push its lead to 5-1. Ray reached on an infield single with one out, and Smith crushed a two-out RBI ground-rule double that one-hopped the fence in center field.
After the Gators chopped the four-run deficit in half with a two-run fifth, Post 439 put the game away in the bottom half after sending 11 hitters to the dish to pile up a six-run bottom half. Highland only needed three hits in the inning, thanks to Trenton being in a giving mood with two more errors and two free passes (walks).
McGill started the flourish by drawing a leadoff walk and advancing to second on a wild pitch. Ramsey followed by slicing a double to right to score McGill. Brett Brown hit a one-out single to plate Ramsey and extend the margin to 7-1.
After the second out, Ray singled to center to drive in Brown and Hallemann coaxed a walk to precede Highland’s final three runs all scoring on back-to-back errors.
Smith earned his first win on the bump this summer after going the first 5 1/3 innings. He gave up three earned runs, seven hits and four walks.
Dickman relieved him with one out in the sixth and sat down the final five batters of the game in order, three by way of strikeout.
It was the second lopsided victory that Post 439 posted over Trenton this season. Highland pummeled the Post 778 Gators 12-2 earlier this season. So, the combination of the two games is 23-5.
District 22 Playoff Tournament Schedule
Game 1 on July 12: Seed No. 3 plays at Seed No. 2 Field
Game 2 on July 13: Winner of Game 1 plays at Seed No. 1 Field
Game 3 on July 14: Loser of Game 1 vs Loser of Game 2 at Higher Seeds field
Game 4 on July 15: Winner Game 2 vs Winner of Game 3 at Higher Seeds field
Game 5 on July 16: (If necessary) Loser of Game 4 (if first loss) vs Winner of
Game 4 at Higher Seeds Field.
Winner advances to Fifth Division Senior Play-offs which begins on July 18-21/22 at West Frankfort
Winner advances to State Senior Tournament which begins on July 27-30 at Jerseyville.
Winner advances to Great Lakes Regional which begins on August 3-7 at SIU-E Baseball complex
Winner advances to American Legion World Series which begins on August 11-16 at Shelby, N.C.