Big hits, kicks and jumps
A long trip to Fairfield on Monday for the third day of the 5th Division Tournament started well for Highland Post 439.
However, the day ended with disappointment and elimination for Post 439.
After defeating Aviston 2-0 in an elimination game Monday afternoon, Highland — with a pitching staff worn thin by multiple games over the past six days from winning the District 22 championship and competing in the 5th Division Tournament — was eliminated by Odin 15-3 on Monday night.
“It was a long day for all of us (Monday) as we left at 10 or 10:30 a.m. (to go there),” Highland manager Harry Painter said. “Then we had the long drive, a two o’clock game and then we sat around for three hours before we played again and the odds were just against us.”
Against Odin, Highland was forced to throw players on the mound who normally do not pitch, and that caused Post 439 to be vulnerable against Odin’s hard-hitting lineup.
Odin set the tone with four runs in the first inning off Highland starter Jakob Ernst. In the bottom of the first, Highland responded, as Kolby Frey hammered a three-run homer to cut the Odin lead to 4-3.
Odin answered with a run in the top of the second and then broke the contest open with five runs in the third inning, two in the fourth, and two more in the fifth to close out a five-inning, mercy-rule win.
“We were in it in the (first), but our pitching just couldn’t hold up,” Painter said. “They (Odin) were just hitting every person we threw up there.”
Odin starter Caleb Jordan kept the Post 439 bats in check, giving up just two hits to earn the five-inning complete-game win.
Ernst, normally an infielder, took the loss for Highland. Painter said the multiple games in three days in winning the District 22 championship, coupled with the rigors of the 5th Division Tournament, left the Highland pitching staff weakened.
“That District 22 championship wore us out, as we played three days in a row,” Painter said. “I ran out of pitching. What else could I do?”
Earlier in the day, Highland stayed alive thanks to Frey outdueling former Highland High School teammate and Danville Area College recruit Payne Waldman of Aviston 2-0 in an elimination game.
Dylan Knebel put Post 439 on top thanks to a monster home run in the top of the first inning. Knebel finished 2-for-3.
Jack Korte singled with the bases loaded, driving in Carter Wiegman to make it 2-0. Frey went 6 1/3 innings to get the win, Waldman tossed a complete game but took the loss as both pitchers topped out at 105 pitches.
“It was a good friendly competition between those two and that was good to see,” Painter said.
Having the season end in the 5th Division tournament was not quite what Highland planned. However, Post 439 finished strong at 20-7, and Painter said this edition will go down as one of the best he’s had in his tenure as the Highland skipper.
“This was a really talented team and probably one of the top three teams I’ve had in the 12 years I’ve done this so it was a pretty good team,” Painter said. “No doubt.”