On a cool, breezy evening, Highland’s pitching and defense kept the visiting Carmel Catholic (Mundelein, Ill.) bats even colder with runners on base, and the Bulldogs mustered just enough offense to score a 3-0 season-opening win Monday at Glik Park.
Carmel Catholic had chances with six hits and six walks. But Highland’s two senior hurlers, Grant Geppert and Tyler Kimmle, made key pitches when they needed to and their defense played an error-free game to combine to frustrate the opposition into 12 stranded runners.
“The defense was good on a cold night, and it was a tough night to hit. You saw that both ways,” said HHS coach Joel Hawkins, whose team team had eight hits but left 11 men on base. “I though they hit a couple of fly balls real good, but they held up in these elements, which was just fine for us.
“I told the kids the difference in the game tonight was their defense vs. our defense, and they made a few more mistakes. And we had some really good at-bats tonight… Another thing is they’re playing their fourth game, and this is our first. That’s tough, and the kids overcame that. It’s a really good win.”
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Geppert (1-0) started and worked the first five innings with three strikeouts. He allowed four hits and four walks, but he danced out of several jams, including leaving the bases loaded in the third inning and stranding a pair in both the fourth and fifth frames.
“Grant did a really nice job; he teetered at the end,” Hawkins said. “He was in the low 70s (pitch count), but we were going to cut him off at 70. After that last hitter (in the fifth), I said, ‘Let’s get him.’ But he did a nice job.”
Hawkins summoned senior right-hander Tyler Kimmle to cover the last two innings. After a fairly easy sixth in which he had no trouble working around a one-out single, Kimmle — literally and figuratively — walked right into trouble. He walked the first two hitters before giving up a single back through the box to load the bases and bring the go-ahead run to home plate with no one out.
But after a meeting on the mound, Kimmle settled down and punched out the next two batters before getting a fly out to end the the threat, the game and record the save.
“For whatever reason, he went away from his personality to throw ball four up there two times,” Hawkins said. “He is a kid who we are really confident in, and we are also confident with Grant. So they combined to do a really nice job tonight against a team that swings the bat pretty well. They took some good swings.”
Highland’s offense scratched across one run in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth innings and got help scoring each one of them from Carmel’s leaky defense, which recorded three errors and two wild pitches.
In the fourth, Jordan Smith and Griffin Welz sliced back-to-back one-out singles to right field. Then, Will Greenwald hit a ball back to the pitcher that could have been a potential inning-ending double play. But after covering second base for the second out, Carmel’s shortstop threw the ball wildly to first, which allowed Smith to come around and score the only run the Bulldogs needed.
In the fifth, Geppert drew a leadoff walk. After back-to-back outs, Chris Dickman reached on an error on the shortstop, which also moved Geppert into scoring position. Andrew Winning then ripped a single down the third-base line to chase Geppert home and make it 2-0.
To lead off the home half of the sixth for HHS, Welz reached second base safely on a throwing error from the shortstop. Two wild pitches to different batters brought Welz around to score. The second wild pitch actually came while Highland had the suicide squeeze on.