The Highland Senior American Legion Post 439 baseball team got off to an emphatic 2-0 start after outscoring its two opponents 11-1. Highland never trailed and was only tied until its ensuing at-bat.
In the season opener May 31, Post 439 scored a 4-1 victory over visiting Carlyle Post 404 at Glik Park.
Then on Friday, Highland blanked visiting the Trenton Post 778 Gators 7-0 at Glik Park.
Next up for Highland was set to travel to Carlyle on Monday before returning home to host the Belleville Post 58 Hilgards on Tuesday. Post 439 will finish out the week by competing in the Greenville College Invitational Friday through Sunday, June 9-11.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
Highland 7 Trenton 0
Steven Diaz and Robert Sigman combined for the five-hit shutout while Dillon Hallemann and Jordan Smith both had big multiple-hit games to lead Post 439 to a dominant victory.
Diaz (1-0) had his curveball working effectively en route to keeping the Trenton hitters off-balance. He blanked Trenton for the first five innings on just three hits and one walk while striking out four to collect the win.
Sigman came in to relieve him with two strong innings. After allowing a leadoff single in the sixth inning to the first batter he faced, Sigman retired the final six batters in a row, three via strikeout.
“It was a good all-around game, great pitching,” Highland coach Harry Painter said. “Steven went five innings only throwing 65 pitches. That’s incredible. His breaking ball was great. And then Robert came in and shut them down for two innings and he only threw 31 pitches. Both pitchers did well tonight. We’ve gotten good pitching in both games and that’s all you can ask for.”
Highland rallied for a two-out two-run rally in the first inning before blowing the game wide open with a five-run eruption in the fifth.
Hallemann and Smith spearheaded the offensive output as they combined for five of Highland’s nine hits.
Hallemann reached base all four times after going a perfect 3-for-3 and being hit by a pitch He also knocked in one run and scored one run.
Smith clubbed two doubles, hammered home three runs and scored twice. In Post 439’s two games, Smith was 5-for-7 and was hit by a pitch.
In addition, Will Greenwald had a two-run double and a walk and Garrett Marti had a double, two walks, one stolen base and two runs scored.
Highland’s two-run rally in the first frame all began with two outs when Marti coaxed a walk. Smith followed by tagging a double down the third-base line and Marti turned on the jets to score all the way from first with the only run Post 439 would need. Hallemann then whacked a single to left to drive in Smith.
After Diaz retired Trenton in the top of the fifth to complete Diaz’s night, Highland all but assured him of the win sending 10 hitters to the plate and lighting up the scoreboard five times.
Jimmie Smith ignited the outburst by pulling screaming double to right field. After Smith went to third on a wild pitch and Marti walked and stole second, Jordan Smith walloped a two-run double to left to extend the lead to 4-0.
Later in the inning, Braden Rehkemper drew a two-out walk with the bases loaded and Greenwald stroked a two-run single to make the final score 7-0.
Trenton got two hits from Joe Abt and one hit each from Alex Cobb and Zach Swaim.
Swaim took the loss after being charged with five runs on seven hits and three walks in four innings.
Highland 4 Carlyle 1
Both teams struggled to get timely hits after getting runners on base, as evidenced by a total of 23 stranded runners. Highland Post 439 left 12 runners on base in six innings while Carlyle stranded 11 runners.
“What I will say about the stranded runners is that it’s the first game, and you could tell we weren’t aggressive at the plate tonight,” Painter said. “But what can you expect when you’ve got five guys that haven’t played in a year? All they have had is BP (batting practice). That’s the kind of stuff that is going to come around and I think leaving that many people on base is going to go away.”
One hitter who did not struggle at all the entire game was Jordan Smith, who reached base all four times after going 3-for-3 and was hit by a pitch.
“He roped the ball; he’s a hitter,” Painter said of Smith. “He was huge for us last year and he is going to be huge for us this year too.”
Also for Highland, Diaz and Greenwald each chipped in two hits while Marti supplied one hit and two walks and Hallemann provided one hit and two RBIs.
Jake Ramsey notched the season-opening victory for Post 439 and danced in and out of danger to do so. In his five innings of work, Ramsey (1-0) allowed four hits, three walks and one hit batsman, but he was able to limit the damage to just one run. His seven strikeouts played a key role in helping Ramsey escape more damage.
“I’ve got to give credit to Ramsey, he battled for five innings,” Painter said. “He ended up throwing a fair amount of pitches for five innings at 93, but he battled through there and he got what he needed. He got out of a lot of jams with strikeouts.”
Dustin Phelps recorded the save after throwing a scoreless final two frames. After working a perfect sixth with one strikeout, Phelps ran into trouble to open the seventh with a walk and a hit batsman. But after Painter went out to chat with him, Phelps promptly sat down the next three batters on a strikeout, a leaping snag of a line drive by shortstop Hallemann ranging to his left near the second-base bag, and then a much easier pop out to Hallemann.
“I am proud of Dusty coming in too, he hadn’t pitched in a while,” Painter said. “He did great in the sixth and then got in to trouble with two men on. But then I went out and talked to him and he relaxed a little bit, and there he was.”
Post 439 scored one run in the first inning. Diaz doubled to right with one out and later scored on Hallemann’s RBI ground out to short.
Post 404 tied the game in the fourth. After loading the bases to lead it off on back-to-back walks and an infield single, Ricky Huge’s RBI 6-5 fielder’s choice scored Jacob Eversgerd.
That would be the only Carlyle base runner who would cross home plate.
After a bunt single by Conner Hulmes reloaded the bases, Ramsey struck out Dru Johnson and got Noah Crocker to line out to third to end the threat.
Highland pushed across the game-winning two runs in the fourth. To lead off the frame, Elliott Prott led off with a single and Sam Greene was hit by a pitch. After a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position, Mike McGill knocked in Prott with the go-ahead run and reached base safely on a fielder’s choice to second.
Then after the first out, Painter called for a suicide squeeze and it worked to perfection as Greene scored an insurance tally while Greenwald was safe at first.
Post 439 tacked on one more insurance run in the bottom of the sixth after three consecutive singles by Marti, Smith and Hallemann plated Diaz, who reached on an error.