After winning its first two games of the season, the Highland Senior Legion Baseball Post 439 baseball team suffered a four-game losing streak before snapping the skid with a 10-7 victory over Mattoon on Saturday to close out the Greenville Wood Bat Classic at Greenville College.
First, on Tuesday, June 6, Highland dropped its District 22 opener 2-0 to the visiting Belleville Post 58 Hilgards at Glik Park.
Next, on Friday, Post 439 lost its first two games of pool play in the Wood Bat Classic with a 3-2 defeat to Shelby County and a 4-3 setback to Danville.
Then on Saturday, Highland went winless in pool play after being beaten 10-3 by Oneida.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
But Post 439 rebounded with a 10-7 victory over Mattoon to avoid going 0-4 at the tournament.
Highland (3-4) plays host to its next two opponents at Glik Park, first Jerseyville for a doubleheader which begins at 5 p.m. on Wednesday , and then Edwardsville at 7:30 pm. Thursday.
Then Friday through Sunday, Highland will compete in the annual Gator Classic at Trenton City Park.
Highland 10 Mattoon 7
Highland led Mattoon 8-2 after four innings before Post 88 scored three in the fifth to chop the deficit in half. Both teams scored two in the sixth inning.
Jimmy Smith swung the biggest bat in the game after going 2-for-3 with a triple, three runs batted in and one run scored.
Braden Rehkemper joined Smith with two hits. Rehkemper also scored twice and knocked in one.
Also contributing one hit each were Steven Diaz (double, one run), Will Greenwald (one RBI, one run), Jordan Smith (double, one run), Garrett Marti (one run) and Dillon Hallemann.
In addition, Elliott Prott added one walk, one RBI and one run, Sam Greene with one walk and one run scored, and Jake Ramsey with one walk and one run scored.
Hallemann (1-0) got his first win on the mound despite allowing five earned runs on seven walks and six hits in six innings. He struck out three. Marti pitched the seventh and gave up two earned runs on two hit and two walks.
For Mattoon, Rayme Hamilton was 3-for-4 with two doubles and two runs batted in, while Brock Moncel was 2-for-3 with a double and Gabe Black was 2-for-3 wit two runs batted in.
Oneida 10 Highland 3
Post 439 battled neck and neck and the game was tied at 2-2 until Oneida rallied for a seven-run fifth inning to pull away.
Diaz was roughed up on the bump as he took the loss for Highland after being tagged for nine runs (six earned) on nine hits. He fanned three and walked none.
Post 439 also didn’t do itself any favors with two costly errors, which led to three unearned runs.
Dusty Phelps relieved Diaz and gave up one earned run on two bases on balls and one hit while whiffing two.
Oneida outhit Highland 10-7. Greene and Halleman each collected two hits for Post 439.
Hallemann also scored a run and Jimmie Smith supplied the only run batted in for Highland to go along with one hit and one walk.
Also for Post 439, Elliott Prott doubled and scored one run and Greenwald singled and scored once.
Danville 4 Highland 3
After the game’s first two batters, Danville had quickly seized a 2-0 lead on a two-run home run off Robert Sigman.
Post 439 responded with a two-run bottom half to pull even. The inning was sparked by back-to-back leadoff triples by Greenwald and Jimmy Smith. Smith then scored on Marti’s RBI ground out to second base.
Danville took the lead for good with a single tally in the third and then tacked on a key insurance run in the fifth to take a 4-2 advantage.
Highland chopped the two-run deficit in half in the home half of the seventh on Greenwald’s run-scoring single to center to plate Prott (leadoff walk).
Then with the bases loaded, Marti flew out to left field to end the game with Post 439 short a run on the scoreboard.
Greenwald and Smith each collected three hits to combine for six of their team’s total of seven.
Sigman was charged with the loss after yielding four earned runs on nine hits and one walk with three strikeouts.
Marti threw a scoreless seventh inning.
Shelby County 3 Highland 2
Shelby County grabbed a quick 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first after Klaiton Wolff hit a one-out RBI triple and Caleb Hill followed with an run-scoring double.
Highland used a two-run fourth inning to pull even. Greenwald reached on an error to lead off the at-bat and Diaz doubled to left to chase him home and cut Shelby County’s lead in half. After an out, Jordan Smith smacked a single to left to score Diaz and deadlock the game at 2.
Shelby County walked it off in the seventh. To set the table,Wolff led off with a single, Hill reached on an error and Chase Thies walked to load the bases. Wolff then scored the walk-off winning run on Hayden Francisco’s RBI ground out to shortstop.
Ramsey worked the first five innings and allowed two earned runs, five walks and three hits while also striking out five.
Phelps took the loss after giving up the unearned run, one hit and two walks in 1 2/3 innings of relief.
Wolff led Shelby after having a hand in all three of his team’s runs. He went 2-for-3 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI.
Belleville 2 Highland 0
In a classic pitcher’s duel between two unbeaten teams, the visiting Belleville Post 58 Hilgards pushed across two runs in the top of the seventh inning to score a 2-0 victory and pin Highland Post 439 with its first loss of the season in its District 22 opener.
Post 58 lefty Jack Lanxon won the duel on the bump. He stymied Post 439 for six innings, surrendering just three hits and two walks while punching out seven. A Truman State University recruit as a strong safety in football, Lanxon’s fastball had plenty of zip and he spotted it well. He made Highland’s at-bats that much more difficult the second time through the order when he mixed in a big breaking curveball the second time through the order.
Shortstop Dillon Hallemann collected two of Highland’s three total hits, while first baseman Jordan Smith accounted for the team’s only other hit.
“We just struggled to score, there were two good pitchers tonight,” Highland coach Harry Painter said. “Their lefty was pretty good. We struggled with his fastball, and you notice he didn’t bring his big curve (ball) out to the second round, which was smart for him to do. And it affected us, but hey, you know what? The hitting is going to catch up with the pitching, we know that. Pitching is always ahead of us at the beginning of the year, and we always face good pitching. But our pitching was good ... I am not disappointed at all, because we can play with this team, and it’s early in the season, and we’ll be fine.”
Hard-throwing right-hander Cole Hensel relieved Lanxon in the seventh and made short of work of Highland on a ground out to second base followed by back-to-back strikeouts to earn the save. It was Hensel’s first outing since having Tommy John surgery a year ago. Of Hensel’s 14 pitches, 10 were strikes.
Post 439 starter Elliott Prott was by no means a slouch. He shut Belleville out after battling through five hits and four walks before forcing the Hilgards to strand 10 runners on base his five innings of work.
“Elliott pitched an outstanding game, battling through five innings and allowing no runs,” Painter said. “He got out of three out of five innings with a runner in scoring position and forced them to strand a lot of runners, so he did an excellent job with all of that stuff, and that was huge.”
Robert Sigman relieved Prott in the sixth and worked around an error for a scoreless frame. But he would end up being charged with the team’s first loss in the seventh.
Lanxon led off by lacing a single to right field. He stole both second and third base before Alford walked and swiped second base. Sigman then recorded a strikeout for the first out. Highland could have had Lanxon on a failed squeeze, but he was able to retreat back to third safely. Then, with the infield drawn in, Lanxon was off with the ensuing contact of a ground ball off the bat of Logan Betz. It may have been a bang-bang play at home plate, but Highland second baseman Greene booted the ball, and both runners were able to come home to score for the game’s only runs.
“Robert came in and he pitched well, too,” Painter said. “If it weren’t for a couple of little miscues there that weren’t really errors, Robert could have been out of that for sure. If we could have gotten (Lanxon) in that rundown, then there’s nobody on third and I have my infield back. Then, Sam probably makes that play, and then we pick the guy off of first, so there’s three outs and no runs. But hey, that’s baseball.”