Dillon Hallemann held Belleville to three hits in six innings as Highland Post 439 broke loose for four runs in the fifth inning Tuesday, and went on for a 7-1 win in the opening game of the American Legion District 22 playoffs.
Held scoreless in two regular-season losses to the second-seeded Hilgards, Highland finally broke through with an unearned run against Belleville starter Jake Jenkins in the fourth inning, then batted around in a four-run uprising in the fifth to take a 5-0 lead.
That five-run cushion was more than enough for Hallemann, who, after working out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning, cruised in his final two innings of work at Whitey Herzog Field.
“To win the opener in a double-elimination event is huge,” Highland manager Harry Painter said. “Dillon (Hallemann) was just outstanding tonight. He got ahead of the hitters.
“Belleville had beaten us in two close games, 1-0 and 2-0, during the regular season, and as you know, it’s hard to beat a team three times in one year. I’m pleased. Our pitching has been pretty good all year, and tonight we hit the ball well and played good defense.”
The win moves Highland (13-10), the defending Fifth Division champion, into a winners bracket game Thursday against the winner of the game between the Metro-East Bears and Freeburg/Smithton. The Bears/Freeburg-Smithton game will be played at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Hoppe Park in Edwardsville.
The Hilgards will host the loser of the Metro Bears-Freeburg/Smithton game at Whitey Herzog Field on Thursday.
Hallemann and Jenkins dominated in the first three innings. But when Sam Greene led off the fourth with a single, and after retiring the next hitter, Jenkins walked Elliott Prott and gave up a single to Mike McGill to load the bases.
Jenkins then struck out Garrett Marti for the second out. But with a 1-2 count on Rob Sigman, Jenkins unleashed a wild pitch, and Greene sprinter home with the first run of the game — and Highland’s first run of the season against Belleville.
Two errors, run-scoring singles by Greene and Hallemann, and a two-run double by Prott highlighted Highland’s four-run fifth inning. Greene, who finished the night 4 for 4, added a single in a two-run sixth inning.