Highland seniors deliver historic 22-win season for Huskies

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RIVERSIDE

The moment was touching.

Actually, moments. There were many of them.

When Highland High School’s magical baseball season finally ended July 9 in a district title loss to Lynnville-Sully, the Huskies assembled in a circle on the grass in right field.

Chase Schultz, a senior who had not only started the game as pitcher but finished it as a reliever in the final inning, stood there and talked to his teammates. Seven of them were senior teammates who were also on the field for the last time.

He hugged teammates.

Tears dripped down his face as he hugged his parents.

Connor Grinstead, another senior, talked to his teammates, as well.

And then, there was head coach Seth Milledge. These weren’t just his summer guys. They were family.

“I’ve got four little girls at home,” said Milledge, holding one of his girls in his arms after the game. “I’ve got four daughters, but I’ve got hundreds of sons. These kids, these eight seniors, they’re just another group of those sons that I’ve had come through. I’ll do anything for ‘em and I love them like they’re my own. Because they are.

“We spend a lot of time together,” Milledge added. “I couldn’t ask for a better group to do that with.”

The final night was as memorable as the previous 25 game nights. The Huskies scored five times in the sixth inning to tie the game at 8-8. Schultz screamed in delight as he slid into home safely on a three-run triple by senior teammate Trevor McFarland.

“We’re not a quitting team,” Grinstead said. “We battled back.”

“There’s a never-say-die attitude,” Milledge said. “We’re going to fight ‘til the last out.”

And so the Huskies did, right up to the final strikeout in the bottom of the seventh inning after Lynnville-Sully went ahead again. A two-run loss.

The heartbreaking finish concluded a 22-win season for the Huskies, their winningest season since the 24-win season of 2016.

They finished just two wins short of making the state tournament for the first time in Highland baseball history since 2016, when the Huskies lost to St. Mary’s-Remsen in the quarterfinals of the Class 1A tournament.

Highland’s starting lineup included six seniors, and sometimes seven or eight. Their only losses during the regular season were to New London, the third-ranked team in Class 1A, and Mediapolis, one of the top 15 teams in Class 2A. They had given up just one run in two district tournaments wins against Montezuma and Hillcrest Academy.

Schultz, the winningest pitcher and strikeout leader in the Southeast Iowa Super Conference’s North Division, was an obvious league MVP. Seniors Brenton Bonebrake and Grinstead led the league in stolen bases with 23 and 22, respectively. McFarland was No. 2 in the SEISC North in batting average (.475), RBIs (29) and home runs (3). Schultz was the home run king with 5.

The Huskies senior parade also included shortstop Luke Miller, first baseman Kaige Vonnahme, Carson Netser and Spencer Grout.

Most of them played in multiple sports together.

“Obviously this is a great group of seniors,” Milledge said. “Wonderful group of kids to come and work with every day. Something I will cherish forever is the opportunity to work with these guys for five years.”

The legacy they leave behind is clear, even with a district championship final-inning loss.

“We ended up losing, but I think we put up a hell of a fight tonight,” Grinstead said.

Yes, it was that.

News columnist Paul Bowker can be reached at bowkerpaul1@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @bowkerpaul.

Highland, baseball, Chase Schultz, Connor Grinstead, Seth Milledge

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