Big hits, kicks and jumps
Highland catcher Dylan Knebel celebrated his birthday Thursday and Post 439 third baseman Colton Knebel celebrated his birthday Friday, and both days, the Post 439 Senior Legion team made sure the twin brothers got good presents.
On Thursday, Highland used a five-run sixth inning to beat Belleville 9-1 in the winners bracket semifinal of the District 22 Tournament at Optimist Field in Highland.
Highland capped off Colton Knebel’s special day by taking care of business in the District 22 title game Friday.
Post 439 scored three runs in the first and rode another dominant pitching performance from right-hander Grifin Frahm to a 5-0 victory over Post 58 to claim the District 22 championship.
It was a tremendous feeling of satisfaction for Frahm, who previously pitched a no-hitter against Mount Vernon on July 3.
“I put in a lot of time in the winter and the fall all time and my dad and I put in a lot of time in the backyard just pitching and practicing and trying to find ways to get better,” he said.
Frahm, the No. 3 pitcher for Highland, was strong from the start as he gave up just three hits in 6 1/3 innings and left the Hilgards a bit frustrated.
“I think we hit the ball hard and I think we only had one strikeout, but he went almost seven innings on 80 pitches and he threw a great game,” Belleville assistant manager John Schweppe said. “We had a couple chances down 3-0, but our guys battled and I’m proud of them. We played missing a few guys during the playoffs and these guys showed up and battled.”
Highland (18-5) was off and running scoring three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Kolby Frey got Post 439 on the board as he ripped a hard shot to third off Belleville starter and ace Will Lanxon that was misplayed and allowed Landon Oestringer to score.
“I was just trying to hit the first pitch and I knew a fastball was coming. I was just trying to get ahead so I just pounded the first ball I saw and was just happy to get on and score a run for the team,” Frey said.
Colton Knebel and Carter Wiegman added RBI singles to push the lead to 3-0. Wiegman had a big day at the plate as he collected three of Highland’s eight hits.
In the fourth, Post 439 collected a pair of insurance runs, as Dickman singled in a run and then Frey doubled to chase home Dickman for a 5-0 bulge.
From there, Frahm attacked Belleville’s hitters at will and kept them off balance.
“I just kind of took a deep breath and just mellowed out and just tried to get into my game and not anyone else’s and just stayed calm and threw strikes,” Frahm said.
Highland’s defense also came up big as the infield turned a critical 6-4-3 double play that stopped Belleville’s best threat in the first inning.
“Except for the error in the seventh inning, that was one of the best defensive games of the year (for us),” Highland skipper Harry Painter said. “The double play in the first inning with their big hitters up was probably the biggest play of the year.”
Highland moves on to the Fifth Division Tournament and will open play Saturday with a first-round game in Fairfield against Steelville.
“We’ve just gotta keep our heads in the game, don’t get frustrated and keep pounding the ball and keep getting good pitching performances and everything is coming together,” Frey said.
This was Highland’s fourth win of the summer against Belleville, which finished 17-5.