After 11 days with no games due to inclement weather, the members of the Highland High School baseball team did not let the down time dampen their spirits as the Bulldogs rolled to their first three victories of the season in a four-day span.
First, on Monday, April 2 at GCS Ballpark in Sauget, Highland battered the Granite City Warriors 13-4 to score its first win of the year.
Next, on Wednesday, April 4 at Glik Park, the Bulldogs mauled the Wesclin Warriors 12-7.
Finally, on Thursday at Glik Park, Highland trampled the Teutopolis Wooden Shoes 11-1 in five innings for its third victory in four days to improve to 3-2 on the season.
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Highland 11, Teutopolis 1 (5 innings)
The Bulldogs scored in four consecutive innings — highlighted by putting up an increasingly crooked numbers in the second, third and fourth innings — to coast to a five-inning, short-game triumph over the Wooden Shoes due to Illinois' 10-run mercy rule.
After a scoreless first frame, Highland followed up a pair of runs in the second inning with a three-run third frame to easily offset a run top in the third from T-Town. The Bulldogs then erupted for a five-run fourth before closing the game out with the necessary single tally in the fifth to bring the game to its hasty conclusion.
Junior shortstop Jacob Willis, senior left fielder Evan Herman, senior first baseman Connor Pinsker and senior second baseman Brock Troxell all collected two hits apiece for Highland.
Willis also doubled, drove home a pair of runs and scored two runs. Herman also knocked in two runs. Pinsker doubled, tripled and scored twice. Troxell also had an RBI single in the second to make it 2-0.
Senior third baseman Colten Knebel helped fuel the five-run fourth inning by crushing a three-run home run over the fence in left field.
Also adding a hit each for the Bulldogs were senior right fielder Jonathan Dickman (hit by pitch, one stolen base, two runs) and senior catcher Dylan Knebel (one walk, one RBI, one run).
Elliott Prott made his second start for Highland, and he made the most of his opportunity on the bump. Prott (1-1) yielded just one run, three hits and two walks over five innings while punching out five.
Prott was also backed up by a sure-handed defense, which played an error-free game in the field.
Highland 12, Wesclin 7
On a day when the weather still more resembled basketball season, the Bulldogs' bats heated. HHS hit .500 (13-for-26) on the day, including walloping two doubles and two triples.
Wesclin grabbed the early lead with two runs to open the game and then went up 3-0 with an additional run in the top of the second.
Highland countered with a single tally in the bottom of the second and then rallied for three more in the third to nab a 4-3 advantage.
The Warriors retook the lead for the last time, 5-4, with a two-runs in the top of the fifth, only to see the Bulldogs explode for six runs in the home half to reclaim the lead for good at 10-5.
Then, after Wesclin cut into the deficit with a two-run top of the sixth, Highland quickly offset it with a matching two-run bottom half to complete the scoring and cruise to the five-run victory.
Troxell, designated hitter Dylan Knebel and senior center fielder Garrett Marti spearheaded Highland's 13-hit attack with three hits apiece.
Troxell also doubled, walked once, drove in three runs and scored twice. Knebel also doubled with a pair of RBIs and three runs scored. Marti also tripled with one RBI and two runs scored.
Also for the Bulldogs, Colten Knebel smacked a two-run single and scored a run, third baseman Prott added a single, three walks, one RBI and one run, and Evan Herman and Pinsker each had one hit, one RBI, one run and two successful sacrifices.
Brandon Durgin led Wesclin with two hits and Gavin Bilbruck (two walks), Ben Herndon and Mick Stephens each had one, two RBIs and one run.
Highland senior starter Dustin Phelps, a Greenville University recruit, struggled with his control. He was pulled after recording just five outs, but not before being charged with three earned runs on five walks and three hits with no strikeouts.
Griffin Frahm, a junior, pitched the next 3 1/3 innings, allowing only one earned run (three overall) on three hits and two bases on balls with three punch-outs.
Senior left-hander Robert Sigman tossed the final two frames to record the save. He surrendered one earned run on three hits and one walk.
Durgin, Wesclin's starter, was tagged with the loss after being knocked around for 10 runs (nine earned) on nine hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings.
Highland 13, Granite City 4
On another frigid day, the Bulldogs used veteran coach Joel Hawkins' patented small-ball tactics to help lead to bigger things. Highland coaxed 10 walks, collected 10 hits and added four sacrifices en route to its first victory of the season Monday, April 2 at GCS Ballpark in Sauget.
It was the Bulldogs' first game in 11 days since suffering a 10-0 road loss to one of the state's top-ranked Class 4A teams, O'Fallon on March 22.
Highland had three games canceled the week of March 26-30 due to inclement weather and playing conditions. Then, the day after beating Granite City, the Bulldogs had to call off a home game against Mater Dei.
Against Granite City, Herman went a perfect 3-for-3 with a pair of runs scored from the No. 9 spot in the lineup, and Pinsker was a perfect 2-for-2 with two runs.
Also for Highland, Sigman doubled and drove in two, while Dylan Knebel knocked in a game-high three runs without the benefit of a hit.
Highland jumped on top after rallying for four runs in the top of the second.
Marti led off with an infield single and later scored the game's first run. The big blow in the frame was Sigman's two-run double to deep center. Sigman later scored the fourth run on Troxell's RBI ground out.
Granite City responded with two runs in each of the home half of the second and third frames to deadlock the game at 4-4.
Pinsker was Highalnd's starter and was charged with all four earned runs. He gave up five hits and four walks while recording four strikeouts in three innings.
Junior lefty Payne Waldman took over the pitching duties to start the fourth inning and held the Warriors' left-handed-heavy lineup in check. Waldman shut out Granite City on just one hit and one base on balls while striking out two the rest of the way to earn Highland's first win of the season.
The Bulldogs continued to use small ball, grinding out walks and taking advantage of errors in the field in the fourth and fifth innings to surge to a domineering 12-4 advantage. In those two frames, Highland piled on four runs in each inning on four hits, five walks and one hit batter.
The Bulldogs scored their final run in the seventh.