Big hits, kicks and jumps
Highland first baseman Ross Spies called it earlier in the week and his Bulldogs teammates delivered on that promise Saturday.
Down a run after two innings, the Bulldogs got a big day at the plate from senior shortstop Jacob Willis and senior pitcher Payne Waldman quieted down the Mascoutah bats as Highland roared past the Indians for a 9-5 win in the IHSA Class 3A regional championship game at Triad High School.
Spies boldly forecasted Highland would conquer Mascoutah after the Bulldogs regional seminal win against Triad.
This was the Bulldogs’ first win in three games against Mississippi Valley Conference rival Mascoutah. The Indians had the talent up and down the lineup but a red-hot Highland team peaking at the right time would not be stopped.
“That’s an awfully good team we beat over there (in Mascoutah),” Highland coach Joel Hawkins said. “They are a really good team and we have the utmost respect for them. I’m really proud of the way these kids played. They did a really good job.”
Fifth-seeded Highland (23-13) will play Carbondale in a Class 3A sectional semifinal at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Salem High School.
Waldman, who struggled at Mascoutah on April 15 in an 8-5 loss, has been dependably steady over the past six weeks as his ERA has dropped to 2.43.
On Saturday, he again showed his moxie, as he settled down after giving up five runs in the first two innings.
“Payne didn’t feel like he was pitching well and the first couple of innings he was awful,” Hawkins said. “I didn’t think we were going to make it any further with him, but it was just incredible and he just kept going and going and did a great job.”
Waldman shut down the Indians the next four frames and got the win as he pitched 6 1/3 innings before giving way to Tyler Werner in relief.
Over the final five innings, the Bulldogs bats got cracking against Mascoutah pitching.
The Bulldogs got a run back in the third and then in the fifth, scored four more runs to take the lead for good. Chase’s Wilson’s sacrifice fly to right field, Frey’s run-scoring double, and an RBI single from Carter Wiegman vaulted Highland ahead 7-5.
Willis doubled home two runs in the top of the fifth to extend the lead to 9-5.
He provided the big spark offensively going 4-for-4 with a double, 3 RBIs, two runs scored and a stolen base.
Willis also made the defensive play of the day with a dazzling backhand stop in the hole at short to take away a Mascoutah hit in the bottom of the fifth inning.
“It was an incredible play by Jacob on a ball in the hole that he backhanded and threw to second,” Hawkins said. “It was really the play of game defensively.”
Wiegman went 3-for-4 while Austin Toler collected two hits and Kyle Schlater had two hits and scored twice.
HHS hammered Mascoutah pitching for 14 hits.
Beating Mascoutah (29-4) left a major feeling of accomplishment for the Bulldogs.
“The kids were very excited celebrating about what just happened,” Hawkins said. “Everybody knew that was no small undertaking and that was really something.”
The Bulldogs now have a few days off until the sectional semifinals at Salem.
“We will have a few days to prepare and we will be ready,” Hawkins said.