The Highland High baseball team, the defending Class 3A state champions, refused to let its season come to the quickest possible ending with an exit in a play-in postseason game. The Bulldogs mauled the visiting Alton Marquette Explorers 9-1 in the quarterfinals of the Highland Regional Monday at Glik Park.
In what has been a season of struggles to gain footing, Highland, the sectional’s sixth seed, won for the fourth time in its last five games to even its record at 18-18. Now the Bulldogs will get a shot at second-seeded Freeburg in the regional semifinals. The game, which was scheduled for today at Glik Park weather permitting, is a rematch of the Bulldogs’ season-opening 3-0 loss to the Midgets.
Against Marquette, Highland senior Griffin Welz scattered six hits and issued only free pass while surrendering just one earned run and fanning five. Welz bumped his season record to a perfect 4-0 while dropping his ERA to a team-low 1.75.
At the plate, Highland rapped out 12 hits — all singles — and stole eight bases en route to chalking up three crooked-number innings after pushing across three runs in each of the first and third and two more in the sixth. The Bulldogs also scratched out a single run in the second.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
HHS senior center fielder Will Greenwald paced the offense with a game-best three hits, three stolen bases, two runs scored and one run batted in.
Collecting two hits apiece for Highland were senior third baseman Mike McGill, sophomore second baseman Brock Troxell and senior designated hitter Andrew Winning. McGill hammered home four runs and also stole base while Troxell thieved on a game-high four stolen bases, walked once and scored three times.
In addition, senior right fielder Chris Dickman knocked in a trio of runs and scored once.
Highland jumped on Marquette starter Jacob File right out of the gate for a three-run first at-bat. After a single by Greenwald and a walk to Troxell and both stole a base to lead off the inning, McGill hit a sacrifice fly to left field to light up the scoreboard for the first time.
Senior first baseman Jordan Smith quickly followed with an RBI single to center to make it 2-0. After Winning singled and the second out was made, File hit sophomore left fielder Garrett Marti and Dickman back-to-back to force in Smith and extend the lead to 3-0.
In the second, Troxell hit a one-out single, stole second and third, and then scored on McGill’s RBI ground out for a 4-0 margin.
After the Explorers got its only run in the top of the third, the Bulldogs answered with a three-run third. HHS’ spurt was keyed by a two-run suicide squeeze bunt single with one out to score Winning (single) and Welz (walk) to increase the lead to a six-run advantage. After Dickman went from first to third on an errant pickoff attempt by File, Greenwald came home on a single to center by Greenwald to balloon it to 7-0.
The game’s final two tallies came in the sixth after Greenwald and Troxell led off with successive singles and stole second and third to precede McGill’s two-run single to left.
Beyer relieved Welz in the seventh and retired the side in order for a perfect frame.
HHS bounces back to split doubleheader with Rams
After being shutout 6-0 on just two hits by Mt. Vernon in the first game of a home doubleheader Saturday, the Bulldogs roared back to turn the tables and blank the Rams 6-0 behind a two-hit complete-game gem twirled by sophomore lefty Connor Pinsker.
Pinsker also walked none and struck out four to raise his team-best record to 6-4 and dip his ERA to 2.10. He was also backed by an error-free defensive performance.
At the plate, senior catcher Austin Brown drove home two runs and Greenwald added two hits.
Joining Brown with one hit each were Marti (one walk, two runs), Welz (double, one run), and senior Trent Carriger (one walk, one run).
Highland 3, Triad 0
Scoring their second win over the Knights in six days on Friday allowed the Bulldogs to finish an even 5-5 in the Mississippi Valley Conference while Triad wrapped up a dismal 0-10 in league play.
McGill fired a one-hit shutout to run his winning streak on the bump to three with his second complete-game victory to lower his ERA to 2.17 and improve to 3-4. He also offset three walks with six strikeouts.
Highland totaled just four hits but was able to push across two runs in the second, followed by an insurance tally in the fourth.
Marti topped all hitters in the game after going 2-for-3 with a double and two runs batted in.
Welz chipped in one hit, one walk and two runs while senior Sam Greene added one walk and one run.
Greenwald had the other hit for the Bulldogs.
John McGee had the lone hit for the Knights.
Highland 9, Effingham 6
On Thursday, the Bulldogs banged out 11 hits (two doubles) and stole 10 bases, a big part of which helped HHS amass a six-run second inning and take what appeared to be a commanding 7-1 lead.
However, the Flaming Hearts totaled five runs in the second and third frames and then chopped the margin all the way down to one before Highland notched a pair of runs in the top of the seventh to wrap up the scoring.
McGill spearheaded the offense after racking up three RBIs and two runs on two hits, one a double.
Also chipping in two hits apiece were Greenwald (one walk, three stolen bases, two runs, one RBI), Troxell (three stolen bases, two runs), and Smith (one double, one stolen base, one RBI, one run).
Additionally, Greene knocked in a pair of runs.