Braden Rehkemper had two hits and three RBI while Rob Sigman pitched six strong innings Thursday as Highland defeated Herrin 8-5 in an elimination game at the Fifth Division Baseball Tournament at Glik Park.
Herrin, which defeated Aviston earlier in the day to remain in the double-elimination tournament, rallied from a 5-2 deficit against Highland to tie the game at 5 after 4 1/2 innings.
But a sacrifice fly by Mike McGill in the bottom of the fifth scored Dillon Hallemann with the go-ahead run. Jordan Smith and Sam Greene added RBI’s in the sixth inning to increase the lead to 8-5 and relief pitcher Steven Diaz retired Herrin in the seventh as Highland moved into the title game on Friday.
Highland (17-12), the defending Fifth Division champions, now must beat the Metro East Bears twice on Friday to move on to the Senior American Legion State Tournament. The Bears (35-7), which have defeated Highland four times without a loss this season, won the latest matchup of the District 22 powers 8-3 on Wednesday.
The title game is set for 3 p.m. on Friday. A Highland win would force a second game at 7 p.m.
“Think about that. We’ve lost 12 games this season and four them have come against the Bears. It’s hard to beat a team five times in one year. We’re going to come right at them,” Highland manager Harry Painter said.
“Tonight, we got a big game from Braden (Rehkemper) and that was great to see. I thought Robert (Sigman) also gave us a big lift with the way he pitched. I don’t think he was as sharp as he has been. But he made big pitches when he needed too. And then (Steven) Diaz came in and closed the door in the seventh.”
Highland jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning as Rehkemper delivered a one-out single to score Eliott Prott and McGill for the first two runs. Rehkemper then scored on a single by Diaz.
Herrin then cut the lead to 3-2 in the top of the third before Highland responded with two runs of its own in the bottom of the inning to once again take a three-run lead. A double by McGill and Rehkemper’s third RBI were the big hits of the inning.
Herrin 4, Aviston 3
Derek Oxford pitched five innings in relief to spark Herrin to a come-from-behind 2-1 win over mistake-prone Aviston in the first game on Thursday at Glik Park.
Aviston took a 2-1 lead on an RBI single by Bryce Harre, but playing in 100 degree heat, Aviston’s defense fell apart in the fifth. Two errors led to three unearned runs as Herrin took the lead for good.