Metro East Bears rout Highland for Fifth Division title

Blake Vandiver went 4 for 4 and drove in a pair of runs to lead the Metro East Bears past Highland 14-4 Friday in the title game of the Fifth Division Baseball Tournament at Glik Park.

Forced to a second game when Highland stayed alive in the double-elimination tournament with a 7-6 win earlier in the day, the Bears scored five runs in the second inning against starting pitcher Steven Diaz.

“They were in a must-win situation, and they played like it,” Vandiver said.

With Vandiver, Joel Quirin, Steven Pattan and Konnar Loewen finishing with two RBIs each, the Bears scored in every inning. The game was stopped in the fifth inning by the 10-run rule.

The win moves the Bears into the American Legion senior state tournament at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday against host Rantoul.

Highland, which took advantage of five Bears errors and used a run-scoring triple by Eliott Prott in the seventh inning to win the first game, took a 1-0 lead in game two on a first inning RBI by Jimmy Smith.

But Diaz, pitching for the third time in three games, couldn’t contain the Bears.

“Give Highland credit. They came out and battled us in the first game. They just ran out of pitching in the last game, and we had a couple of pitchers left,” Bears coach Ken Schaake said.

Trailing 6-1 after two innings, Highland (18-13) scored twice in the third inning on a run-scoring single by Dillon Hallemann and a fielder’s choice by Sam Greene.

But Loewen made it 7-3 with an RBI single in the bottom of the third inning, and Pattan added a two-run single in the fourth to increase the lead to 10-3.

The Bears’ win was their fifth in six meetings with Highland this summer.

“Steven Diaz gave it a great effort, but he pitched on Thursday and then came in and was the winning pitcher in relief in the first game today. That’s a lot in any situation, especially in this heat,” Highland manager Harry Painter said. “We just didn’t have any pitching left.”