Highland News Leader

Two-run 6th vaults Waterloo past Highland in MVC showdown

Highland News Leader

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The Highland News Leader serves readers in Highland.

The roller coaster nature of the Highland Bulldogs 2019 baseball season took another dip Wednesday when the Bulldogs ventured to Waterloo High School.

Despite matching Waterloo run-for-run for five innings, Highland could not close the deal late. Waterloo’s Josh Witetnauer singled home a run in the bottom of the sixth, Marcus Heusohn added an RBI-groundout and sophomore reliever Dustin Crawford closed the door as Waterloo posted a 6-4 Mississippi Valley conference victory.

The finish was agonizing for Highland (5-5 overall, 1-1 in the MVC), which led 4-3 in the bottom of the fifth, but shaky defense throughout led to the outcome.

“We made play after play for them, so it was really frustrating because one of the things we take the most pride in is playing good defense and there wasn’t any good defense,” Highland coach Joel Hawkins said.

Waterloo (9-2, 1-1) jumped ahead in the bottom of the first, loading the bases with no outs against Highland starter Michael Barth.

Crawford lifted a sacrifice fly for a 1-0 lead, but Barth escaped further damage thanks to a 1-2-3 double play that left Waterloo coach Mark Vogel livid.

“We had the bases loaded with nobody out and then bases loaded with one out and only got one run out of all that and when you do that against a quality program like Highland, you’re fortunate to come out with a win,” Vogel said. “Our kids made enough plays at the end and they stuck with it and you’ve got to give them (Highland) credit.”

Highland responded with two runs in the top of the second. Kolby Frey led off with a walk and later scored on a wild pitch. Landon Oestringer singled home a run with two outs for 2-1 lead.

Waterloo answered in the bottom of the third on Trey Kueper’s wind-aided round tripper. In the fourth, Crawford led off with a double and later scored on an error, putting Waterloo ahead 3-2.

In the top of the fifth, Highland surged back ahead. Chase Wilson dropped an RBI-double down the right field line and then a wild pitch brought home another tally, putting Highland back in front 4-3.

Heusohn drew Waterloo even again in the fifth with a twisting homer off reliever Tyler Werner, tying the score at 4-4.

WHS vaulted ahead for good in the bottom of the sixth on Wittenauer’s run-scoring single off Jacob Willis.

“They put in their guy (Willis) who is good, so my goal was not to put a ball in the gap but just to hit a ball hard and I felt like that’s what I got and I was able to get that hit for us,” Wittenauer said. “Man, it felt great.”

“He’s a senior and he’s been through a lot of these, so there’s nothing too big for him,” Vogel said. “He can handle all these situations.”

Huesohn followed with an RBI grounder to third for a 6-4 lead.

Highland had a final chance in the seventh, but Crawford — who relieved starter Drake Downing the inning prior — retired three of four hitters to close it out.

Despite the outcome, one positive development for Highland was its ability to chase Downing after five innings, as they forced him to throw 100 pitches while getting a one-run lead.

“Against a really hard-throwing kid, we made him throw 100 pitches in five innings,” Hawkins said. “Those at bats were five, six, seven, eight pitches and that made him throw 100 pitches and that should put us in a position for success.”

Highland still must tighten its defense.

“We’ve got to figure out how to get aggressive on the defensive side,” Hawkins said. “That’s something we’ll work on and I know they can play better.”