The Highland High School baseball team reeled off three more victories in as many days to run its winning streak to six before finally having it snapped. All four games were played at the friendly confines of Glik Park.
First, on Monday, April 9, Highland out-dueled Jerseyville 3-1 in a pitcher's duel in both teams' Mississippi Valley Conference opener.
Next, on Tuesday, April 10, the Bulldogs silenced their opponent after the first inning for the second straight game, this time rolling by visiting Mater Dei for a 7-2 come-from-behind win.
Then on Wednesday, April 11 on Glik, Highland returned to conference play and outlasted Waterloo, 6-5, in an 11-inning marathon.
Finally, on Friday, the Bulldogs trailed 7-1 heading into their final at-bat before mounting a furious comeback that came up a single run short in a 7-6 loss to Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin.
The six-game winning streak dramatically turned HHS' season around after an 0-2 start. Highland's overall record now stands at 6-3 overall while the two wins over conference foes Jerseyville and Waterloo gave the Bulldogs a perfect 2-0 start to the MVC season.
Sacred Heart-Griffin 7, Highland 6
The Bulldogs were buried in a 7-1 hole after five innings after the Cyclones tagged Highland senior starter Dustin Phelps for four earned runs in 1 2/3 innings and knocked around junior reliever Bailey Trame for three earned runs in 2 1/3 frames. Highland did its best to overcome the six-run deficit, but the comeback fell just short.
The Bulldogs rallied for five runs in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI double by senior Michael Riffel and a grand slam by senior Colten Knebel. Knebel's homer, which sailed over the fence in left field, was his second in as many days and third overall this season.
After Knebel's roundtripper cut the six-run deficit all the way down to one, senior Elliott Prott hit a one-out double to put the tying run in scoring position. But it was not to be as junior Jacob Willis grounded out to short and junior Ross Spies flied out out to left.
Knebel, Willis and senior Connor Pinsker each had two hits for Highland. In the fourth inning, Knebel led off with a single to left and two batters later, Willis chased him home with an RB single to center.
For Sacred Heart, Pete Soehnlin went a perfect 3-for-3, while Will Elvers, Jared Viele and Riley Kramp each added two hits apiece.
Elvers knocked in a team-high three runs, while Soehnlin, Viele and Kramp each had one RBI and one run.
Highland 6, Waterloo 5 (11 innings)
A see-saw, marathon game that looked at times like it would go on forever finally came to an end with one out in the bottom of the 11th inning. Junior Jacob Willis drilled the first offering to him to center field to plate senior Garrett Marti and propel Highland to the walk-off victory.
Marti set the table by clobbering a one-out triple to center. Then, after back-to-back intentional walks to seniors Robert Sigman and Colten Knebel, Willis, who was 0-for-5 in the game up to that point, came through with the clutch hit.
Marti and Dylan Knebel led HHS' offense after combining to collect eight of their team's 11 total hits, with each going 4-for-6 at the dish. Knebel drove in the game's first run with a double in the home half of the first inning.
Colten Knebel, Dylan's twin brother, also provided a big highlight in the second inning when he crunched a leadoff home run over the fence in center field to deadlock the score at 2-2.
Also offensively for HHS, senior Connor Pinsker added a single, a walk and a run scored, and senior Brock Troxell had two walks, one RBI and one run.
The game-winning hit by Willis made a winner of the lefty Sigman (1-0), who retired the side in order in the 11th in relief of senior right-hander Elliott Prott, a McKendree recruit who was lifted after surrendering a leadoff single.
But Prott had already done plenty of heavy lifting after throwing 89 pitches to cover the previous six innings. Prott was pinned with just one earned run and four strikeouts in relief of the starter, junior lefty Payne Waldman.
Waldman toiled a bit, needing 90 pitches to get through the first four frames. He was charged with four runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks while punching out five.
For Waterloo on offense, Dustin Crawford, Nolen Smith, Quinten Albrecht and Sam Kreinberg all collected two hits apiece. Crawford also drove in a game-high three runs.
Carter Chiasson suffered the loss. After throwing three shutout innings, Marti and Willis broke through on him in the 11th.
Highland 7, Mater Dei 2
The Knights grabbed an early lead after scoring two unearned runs in the first inning on three hits and the help of a costly error.
But Mater Dei's lead was short-lived as the Bulldogs retaliated with three runs in the home half of the first to take the lead for good.
Highland, which slightly outhit the Knights, 10-9, went on to add a pair of runs in each of the fourth and sixth innings to gain some much needed-separation.
On the bump for the Bulldogs, junior right-hander Griffin Frahm worked the first four innings to earn the victory and improve to 2-0 this season. He only allowed the two unearned runs in the first frame before blanking the Knights on thee hits with five strikeouts over his last three innings of work. Frahm lowered his ERA to 0.95.
Senior righty Austin Habermehl relieved Frahm to open the fifth inning and shut out Mater Dei on just three hits with four strikeouts over the final three innings to chalk up the save.
At the plate for Highland, twins Colten and Dylan Knebel each supplied two hits, one double, one walk and one run batted in.
Also chipping in one hit for the Bulldogs were senior Jonathan Dickman (double, one RBI, one run), Marti, (double, one RBI), Pinsker (one RBI, two runs), Prott (one RBI, one run), Troxell (two walks, two runs) and Willis.
Mater Dei received two hits apiece from Nick Burg and Logan Johnson. Burg had a run-scoring single in the first inning, as did Kyle Petermeier.
Petermeier took the loss for the Knights after giving up five earned runs on seven hits and four walks in 3 1/3 innings. He struck out two. Parker Johnson pitched the final 2 2/3 innings and yielded two earned run on two hits and one base on balls. He fanned four.
After Mater Dei got its two runs in the top of the first, Troxell ignited the go-ahead rally with a leadoff walk. After stealing second base, Troxell came around to score on Pinsker's RBI single to left field.
After Dylan Knebel singled and the first out was made, Prott lined a single to center to drive in Pinsker and even the score at 2-2. Colten Knebel then clubbed a double to center to put on top for good at 3-2.
In the Bulldogs' two-run fourth at-bat, Dickman doubled to center to knock in an insurance tally and Dickman later scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-2 in Highland's favor.
In Highland's two-run sixth, Dylan Knebel swatted a run-scoring double to center and Marti added a sacrifice fly to center to complete the scoring.
Highland 3, Jerseyville 1
Both teams were strong on the mound as the opposing hurlers went the distance and minimized the damage for their respective teams. All of the runs were scored in the first two innings and then all zeroes were hung on the scoreboard.
The Bulldogs won despite being outhit 10-6. The Panthers stranded 11 baserunners, while Highland left seven on base.
Jerseyville scored its only run in the game's first at-bat in the top first inning with the help of an error.
Highland countered with all three of its tallies in the bottom of the second.
The Bulldogs' first four hitters reached. Marti led off with a single to left field. Prott followed by bunting for a hit. After Willis coaxed a walk to load the bases, Colten Knebel, who went 3-for-3, lined a two-run single to center to provide all of the offense Highland really needed.
Then after Dickman laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners, Herman hit a sacrifice fly to center to allow Willis to tag and score the game's third and final run.
Pinsker made the lead hold up as he had by far his best outing in his start this spring. He battled around 10 hits with seven strikeouts and just one walk.
Pinsker also had the other hit for the Bulldogs.
For Jereseyville, Brett Tuttle went 3-for-4 to lead the way while Logan Simpson, Collin Carey and and Ryan Johnes each added two hits.
On the mount, Johnes allowed three earned runs on six hits and four walks with two strikeouts.