Big hits, kicks and jumps
All they needed was three outs in the eighth inning and the Highland Bulldogs were headed to the Class 3A Salem Sectional championship game this weekend.
Carbondale’s James Baltz spoiled the Bulldogs bid to make that happen.
Baltz ripped a 3-2 pitch to left field for a two-run double, erasing a one-run Highland lead, and the Terriers posted a 4-3 walk-off win in the bottom of the eighth inning of a sectional semifinal at Salem Community High School on Wednesday night.
“It was a walk-off blast for them on a 3-2 pitch and it a was a great game and (Carbondale) played really well,” Highland coach Joel Hawkins said. “You tip your cap to them when they played defense as well as they played and pitched as well as they pitched.”
Carbondale (20-7) will face Waterloo for the sectional championship at 10 a.m. Saturday in Salem.
Highland went ahead 1-0 in the top of the third as Kolby Frey led off with a double and scored on Carter Wiegman’s run-scoring single.
Carbondale answered in the bottom of the fourth as Terrier pitcher Riley Dyer ripped a two-run homer off Frey, chasing home Baltz for a 2-1 edge.
In the fifth, the Bulldogs got a runner to third with just one out, but Dyer forced a lineout by Jacob Willis and a groundout to end that rally.
The Bulldogs had an even better chance to tie the score or retake the lead in the sixth, putting runners on first and third, but Dyer escaped that jam thanks to a 6-4-3 double play.
“We had first and third with one out and we bounced into a double play and we had chances to do some things, but we couldn’t figure which buttons to push to get us through to get the key run at the key moment,” Hawkins said.
The Bulldogs were not done, however. Down to their last at-bat, Highland’s Kyle Schlater tied the score at 2-2 with a solo home run on a 1-2 pitch from Dyer.
Highland reliever Tyler Werner stopped Carbondale in the bottom of the seventh and Schalter came up big again in the top of the eighth inning.
This time he slapped a two-out RBI single to drive in Wiegman, giving the Bulldogs a 3-2 lead.
“A lot needs to be said for Kyle Schlater,” Hawkins said. “He hit the home run in the seventh and he drove in the run with the base hit in the eighth to give us a chance right there. He had one of his best nights.”
Schlater’s big night ended up being a footnote in the bottom of the eighth as Baltz struck again for the Terriers.
After working to a 3-2 count, Baltz ripped a fastball to the left field fence for a 2-run double and the Bulldogs’ hopes of advancing to the sectional championship were gone in a split-second.
“He (Baltz) went to 3-1, so we threw a fastball and it was 3-2 and we threw the next fastball and that one he blasted over our heads in left (field) and they scored two and that was it,” Hawkins said. “Baseball goes back and forth and you’re always thinking about what about this pitch as it’s happening or that play and you start to second guess.”
Hawkins had no second guesses about his team in spite of the tough postseason loss.
”We’re going to be really proud of them going down the road,” Hawkins said. “We talked about that after the game and this one’s gonna hurt for a while but we’ll pick up all the pieces. We’re grateful to our younger guys and our senior class. Our senior guys Michael Barth, Cody Blackburn, Riley Field, Griffin Frahm, Ryan Hacke, Ross Speis, Payne Waldman, and Jacob Willis were wonderful and that’s our senior class.”
Highland finished 23-14.