Highland, Bears set for another Legion showdown

Storm Coffman pitched a complete game, and Cole Hensel drove in a pair of runs, as the Metro East Bears defeated Aviston 5-2 on Tuesday at the Fifth Division American Legion Baseball Tournament.

Coffman allowed a third-inning run-scoring single to Jack Strieker, but little else. The Bears (34-7) played small ball as they moved to 2-0 in the double-elimination tournament at Glik Park.

The Bears used sacrifice bunts three times to set up three of the five runs.

“We bunted three times, and each time it led to us scoring. We executed very well today,” Bears manager Ken Schaake said. “Then we were able to get hits with runners in scoring position and bring them in.”

The Bears will take on District 22 rival Highland at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Highland defeated Herrin 12-4 in the final game Tuesday at Glik Park.

The winner of the Highland-Metro East game gets Thursday off and advances to Friday’s title game. Aviston will play Newton in an elimination game at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Steeleville plays Herrin in the first game at noon Wednesday.

The Bears jumped out to a 1-0 lead against Strieker in the first inning when Dylan Burris led off with a single, went to second on a bunt by Joel Quirin and scored on a single by Blake Vandiver.

Aviston had runners in scoring position against Coffman in the first two innings but failed to cash in.

“We had a couple of chances to get a hit with runners in scoring position. That and the fact that there were some situations where we didn’t execute and gave them an extra out and extended the inning. You can’t do that against good teams,” coach Kegan Robbins said.

Highland 12, Herrin 4

Dillon Hallemann had three hits and drove in four runs as Highland rolled to an easy second-round win.

Hallemann, who had three hits in an opening-game win over Carmi on Monday, sparked a five-run second inning as Highland grabbed an early lead. Herrin, which dropped to 1-1 in the tournament, would get no closer than 8-4 the rest of the night, as Elliot Prott pitched 6 1/3 innings to get the win.

“He (Hallemann) is on fire right now,” Highland manager Harry Painter said. “And I thought Elliot (Prott) pitched a great game for us. He struggled a little bit early with his control, but once he found his groove, he was really strong out there. It was a great effort.”

Highland sent nine batters to the plate and scored five of them in the second inning to erase a 2-0 deficit.

The win moves Highland (16-11) into a fourth meeting of the season against the Metro East Bears.

“We’re 0-3 against them. We lost 8-4 in a game where we gave four early runs, then we’ve also lost 4-1 and then 2-1 last week,” Painter said. “They are a great team, but we feel like we’re peaking at the right time.”