Big hits, kicks and jumps
The Highland Bulldogs were looking for some big innings from their bats as the Class 3A Triad Regional playoffs began earlier this week.
On Thursday, thanks to a couple of huge frames with timely hits, Highland put a stop to arch rival Triad’s 2019 season.
HHS broke loose for four runs in the third inning and three more in the sixth inning and rolled to a 7-2 victory against the Knights in an IHSA Class 3A Regional semifinal at Triad.
Fifth-seed Highland (22-13) advances to the regional championship game at 11 a.m. Saturday against top seed Mascoutah.
In their third meeting against the Knights, Highland mixed strong run-production with solid pitching and defense.
Kolby Frey threw a gutsy 5 1/3 innings, as the Highland starter yielded just a sixth-inning home run to Evan Anderson.The Bulldogs infield appropriately finished the game off with a 1-6-3 double play.
“Kolby came in and pitched his guts out and Tyler (Werner) came in and threw strikes and you’ve got to keep doing that, and our defense has become kind of a strength,” Highland coach Joel Hawkins said.
After a quiet first two innings, HHS struck for four runs in the top of the third.
Ross Spies got the big blow of the inning as he ripped a bases-loaded two-run double to right field off Triad pitcher Jack Oller, giving HHS a 2-0 lead.
“Bases were loaded, it was a good opportunity we had the first inning (and didn’t get it) and it just worked out,” Spies said. “I squared one up kind of and he didn’t catch, so we scored two. I was trying to put it in right center.”
Spies had a strong day with the double, two walks and two RBIs.
“It (the day) worked out all right, I got two walks and the double so it was a pretty good day,” Spies said.
Highland added two more runs to close out the third-inning surge as Frey and Spies scored on wild pitches.
Triad, which ended its season at 13-23, got a run back in the bottom of the third on an Ethan Gratton RBI single to center field.
In the sixth, Kyle Schlater keyed a three-run rally with a run-scoring double, and HHS stretched the lead to 7-1.
“Triad has given up some of these big innings this year and I just thought that every chance we had to score we needed to score,” Hawkins said.
Anderson homered off Frey in the bottom of the sixth with one out but Tyler Werner came on in relief and prevented further damage.
Werner closed it out in the seventh to send the Bulldogs on to the regional championship game.
“So, this now becomes a really good season, we’re up to 22 wins and these kids have played the good teams well,” Hawkins said.
Spies was happy to beat Triad again and is looking forward round three with Mascoutah.
“It’s always fun to beat Triad,” Spies said. “We’re not going to let them (Mascoutah) beat us three times. I think we’ve got this one.”