The Highland Senior Legion Post 439 baseball team swept District 22’s top two individual awards as pitcher and shortstop Dillon Hallemann walked away with Player of the Year honor and Harry Painter was named the Manager of the Year.
Hallemann and Painter were rewarded for helping upstart Highland win nine of its last 12 games to post a respectable 18-13 record and take second place in both the District 22 and Fifth Division tournaments.
Hallemann was honored as the District 22 Player of the Year after putting his all-around talents on display this summer. He excelled on the mound, at the plate, and in the field — flashing the leather and a powerful arm while playing shortstop.
On the bump, the 6-foot-5 lanky right-hander went a perfect 4-0 while sporting an impressive ERA of 1.62. Hallemann surrendered just six earned runs and 15 hits while punching out 25 in 26 innings of work.
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He was never better than in his last start when Post 439 blanked Carmi 5-0 to open the Fifth Division Tournament at Highland’s Glik Park. The Illinois College (Jacksonville, Illinois) pitcher threw all seven innings and yielded just three hits and one walk while whiffing eight.
Hallemann was also sharp in his first playoff outing when Highland routed the Belleville Post 58 Hilgards 7-1. He blanked Belleville on three hits with six strikeouts in six innings.
At the dish, Hallemann hit .297 with a .396 on-base average to go along with six doubles, 15 runs scored and 17 RBI, which ranked second best on the team.
Painter said Hallemann winning Player of the Year honors really highlighted his playoffs and was a testament to how far he came from the beginning of the season.
“When he first came here this summer, he was struggling. We worked to try and fix him, not mechanically or technically, but with his mindset. We wanted him to just go out and throw the ball,” Painter said. “With the multiple coaches he has had, my goal was to have not think about it, but just throw the ball and let it loose. And his bat came alive when I moved him out of the 3 hole and put him in the 5 hole. I think it took some of the pressure off him that also came from the pitching side of things. He also made great plays at shortstop. Dillon really came together with in all aspects of the game.
“He is a good kid and a pleasure to coach, and he was an absolutely integral part of our team and our success this season.”
This is the fourth time Painter has been named District 22’s Manager of the Year. He also reaped the honor after the 2011, 2014 and 2016 seasons.
“It’s about the kids and the team you have,” Painter said. “If you don’t have the kids to execute what the coaches are trying to do, then coaches will not be successful. This award is really a tribute to this team to reach our goals. We won nine of our last 12 games, and it was a very crucial time in the postseason. Four of our five older players did not play college ball this year, and only about half of our high school kids played regularly. I knew it would take about four or five weeks for them to gel, and they did. From 1 through 15 on this roster, everybody contributed.
“I am really proud of the guys this year. They exceeded our own expectations. We were just a pitcher or two from going back to the state tournament, like we did last year.”