The Highland Senior Legion Post 439 baseball team found its offensive groove en route to dominating its final three regular-season games.
But first, on Wednesday, July 5, Highland fell behind early and couldn’t come back in a 3-1 loss at Salem.
The next night, Post 439 made short work of East St. Louis with an 11-0 romp over the host team.
Then on Saturday, Highland traveled to Valmeyer and broke out the brooms to convincingly sweep the host squad in a doubleheader by scores of 14-1 and 10-5.
“It was a great day,” Highland coach Harry Painter said of the doubleheader sweep of Valmeyer. “It was our best team effort of the year. Everybody played and contributed. Now we need to keep it up heading into the playoffs.”
Post 439 wrapped up the regular season with a 12-10 overall record and finished third in District 22 with a 6-4 mark.
Highland 10 Valmeyer 5
Post 439 trailed 4-2 before rallying for four runs in the bottom of the third inning to go on top for good at 6-4.
Then after Valmeyer got to within 6-5 with a single run in the fourth, Highland pushed across four more runs in the sixth to put the game away.
Post 439 strung together nine hits and six walks.
Mike McGill, Elliott Prott and Braden Rehkemper each banged out two hits.
McGill also tripled, drove in three runs and scored once. He slugged a two-run triple to right field to pull Highland even at 4-4 in the home half of the third.
Prott also doubled, walked once, knocked in a pair of runs and scored one.
In addition, Rehkemper also contributed one walk, one RBI and one run while Jordan Smith added one hit, two RBIs and one run. Rehkemper connected for an RBI single to left to stake Post 439 to a 6-4 lead.
In Highland’s four-run sixth, Smith hit a run-scoring single, Prott socked a two-run double to center and McGill finished off the scoring with an RBI ground out to third base.
Left-hander Robert Sigman earned the victory despite struggling at times. He worked the first four innings and allowed five runs (two earned), six hits and one walk while whiffing three.
Smith relieved Sigman in the fifth and finished the game with three scoreless innings, yielding just two hits with one strikeout.
Highland 14 Valmeyer 1
Post 439 pounded out 16 hits, and Prott and Garrett Marti combined to stifle Valmeyer’s offense.
Highland put up crooked-number innings in the second (three), third (two), fourth (two) and seventh (seven) to dominate early and often.
Valmeyer was only able to scratch out an unearned run in the fourth.
Six different Highland hitters collected multiple hits, led by Smith going 4-for-5.
David Lutostanski, McGill, Dillon Hallemann, Steven Diaz and Jimmie Smith all collected two hits apiece.
McGill reached base all four times as he doubled twice and walked twice. He also had one RBI and one run scored.
Lutostanski (one double) one walk), Hallemann (one walk) and Diaz (one double) each also provided a pair of RBIs and a pair of runs scored.
Prott earned the victory on the bump after surrendering only one unearned run and four hits while walking none and striking out two in 4 1/3 innings of service.
Garrett Marti blanked Valmeyer on three hits and one base on balls while whiffing three over the final 2 2/3 innings.
Highland 11 East St. Louis 0 (5 innings)
Dusty Phelps carved up East Side with a one-hitter in which he also only gave out two walks while punching out eight.
Post 439 only needed six hits and six runs batted in, due in large part to the giving nature of East St. Louis, which committed nine errors and gave out nine free passes.
Highland put an end to the game two innings early after scoring two runs in each of the first, second and fourth innings, followed by a five-spot in the fifth.
Prott reached base all four times after going 2-for-2 with one double, two walks, two RBIs and one run scored.
Jordan Smith whacked a two-run double in the fifth inning to provide the game’s final runs.
In addition, Hallemann provided a double, two run scored and one RBI, Jake Ramsey supplied one hit, one walk and one run, and Diaz chipped in two walks, three runs, and one run batted in.
Salem 3 Highland 1
The pitching and defense were strong on both sides. Both defenses played an error-free game.
Both teams also left seven runners on base.
Trent Geiler earned the win for Salem after working seven strong innings. He allowed just one earned run, four hits and three walks while punching out nine.
Jake Ramsey took the loss for Highland after pitching six innings and surrendering three earned runs, six hits and four bases on ball. He struck out six.
Salem buried Post 439 and Ramsey in a three-run hole after accounting for all of its runs in the bottom of the second inning.
After allowing all three runs and handing out three of his four free passes along with two hits and a hit batsman in the third, Ramsey settled in and blanked Salem on three hits and one walk over his final four innings of work.
Highland, which only mustered four hits, was not able to come back after only being able to respond with one run in the top of the third.
For Salem, Max Phillips, Riley Martin and Levi Davis supplied two hits apiece.
For Post 439, Diaz led the way with a pair of hits while Jordan Smith and Michael Riffel each added one hit.
In Salem’s three-run second, Caleb Harpster forced in the game’s first run with a bases-loaded walk and Phillips followed with a two-run single to center to extend the lead to 3-0.
In the top of the third, Highland loaded the bases with one out after a single by Riffel, a walk to Diaz and a Sam Greene was hit by a pitch. Hallemann lined a sacrifice fly to center which allowed Riffel to tag up and score.
But that would be the only run Post 439 would muster.