The Highland Senior Legion Post 439 baseball team posted back-to-back dominant District 22 victories in as many days to get back to the .500 mark at 9-9.
First, on June 27, Highland short-gamed visiting East St. Louis 12-1 in 4 1/2 innings at Glik Park. Next, on June 28, Post 439 were rude guests after pinning a 6-1 defeat along with a season sweep on Freeburg/Smithton.
In addition to the two wins evening its overall record, Highland also improved its District 22 mark to 3-4 and will look to finish the regular season with an even 4-4 league record after pulling off the sweep of East St. Louis on the road the next time out.
But Post 439 will have to wait eight days to get that chance as Highland does not play at East St. Louis until Thursday, July 6.
But the longest layoff of the season does not concert coach Harry Painter.
“Having a five-day layoff should not be a problem. Last year, we took off five days and came back rested and fresh and we won both the District 22 and Fifth Division tournaments. Hopefully, the same thing happens this time,” he said.
Highland closes out the regular season with a scheduled non-league doubleheader at Valmeyer on Saturday, July 8. The first game is slated for a noon first pitch.
Next up is the double-elimination postseason tournament, which begins with the District 22 Playoff Tournament that will run July 11-15. The games will be played at the field of the better seed.
Highland receives an automatic bid to the Fifth Division Tournament as the tourney host at Glik Park Juyy 17-21.
The American Legion Senior State Tournament will take place July 26-29 in Mattoon, and will be folowed by the 8 State Regional Tournament Aug. 2-6 and finally the American Legion World Series Aug. 10-15 in Shelby, N.C.
Highland 6 Freeburg/Smithton 1
Freeburg/Smithton scored its only run in the first inning, and Post 439 found its offense late but in plenty of time to bring out the broom to sweep the host team.
Highland scored one run in each of the fourth and fifth innings before blowing it open with a four-run sixth.
Highland committed only one harmless error while 6-foot-5 right-hander Dillon Hallemann was stout on the mound, despite making just his start of the summer. Hallemann (2-0) went the distance and surrendered just one earned first inning before silencing the host squad over the final six frames. He allowed only three hits and easily countered three walks with eight strikeouts.
Post 439 banged out 13 hits. Will Greenwald, Jimmie Smith, Steven Diaz and Sam Greene all collected two hits apiece.
Greenwald also knocked in a pair of runs to join Jordan Smith for game-high honors. Greene also added one RBI and Jimmie Smith scored a game-best two runs.
“It was a great game all around,” Painter said. “We had solid defense, timely hitting and Dillon pitched a great game.
Freeburg/Smithton scored its lone run in the first on Jordan Fritz’s RBI single to center field.
Fritz was also the losing pitcher, but he pitched well, giving up two earned runs in five innings of work after battling around eight hits.
But Highland roughed up reliever Joseph Wolf for four earned runs on five hits and one walk in just two innings.
Post 439 pulled even with a single tally in the fourth on Greenwald’s single to left to score Elliott Prott (double).
Highland pushed across the go-ahead run in the fifth. Jimmie Smith led off with a single to center, stole second base, advanced to third on a passed ball, and scored on a ground out by Jordan Smith.
In the four-run sixth at-bat, Highland received RBI singles from Greenwald, Jordan Smith and Greene. Greenwald also scored on an error.
Highland 12 East St. Louis 1
Post 439 banged out 10 hits and took advantage of East Side’s generosity for seven errors and six walks to bring the game to a hasty conclusion after Highland only batted four times.
It was no surprise that Post 439 put up a crooked number in all four at-bats after scoring twice in the first inning before erupting for a five-spot in the second, then finishing with three more in the third and two in the fourth.
Greenwald and Robert Sigman led the offensive attack with two hits apiece.
Greenwald also clubbed one double, drove in a game-high two runs, and tied for game-best honors with two runs scored. Sigman also scored twice and knocked in one run.
Contributing one hit, one RBI and scoring two runs were Prott (double, one walk), Jimmie Smith (one walk) and Greene.
In addition, David Lutostanski chipped in one hit and two runs scored while Jake Ramsey added one hit, two walks and one RBI and Dusty Phelps had one hit and two walks.
Diaz picked up the win after tossing three hitless and scoreless innings. He offset three walks with seven strikeouts.
Phelps worked the final two innings and conceded one earned run, two hits and one walk while fanning one.
Royce Mosley and Pierre Knowles each recorded one hit for East St. Louis. Also, Mosley also had one walk and scored his team’s only run in the fourth while Demondre Smith drew three walks.
Smith was charged with the loss for East Side after giving up seven runs (five earned) on five hits and five bases on balls in only 1 2/3 innings of service.
Mosley relieved Smith and also had a rough outing, allowing five runs (just one earned), five hits and one walk. Both Mosley and Smith recorded two strikeouts.