The Huskies allowed just one run in a first-round victory over Montezuma, but senior Chase Schultz wasn’t happy with his command or consistency after allowing five hits during the four-inning outing.
He was determined to improve both in his return to the mound against Hillcrest.
“We just had to move on, and I had to move on as a pitcher,” he said. “I knew that coming into this next round, I was going to have to be locked in and ready to go because it's hard to beat a team three times. I knew we were going to have to come out guns blazing.”
On Tuesday, Schultz allowed just two hits as Highland advanced to the district final with a 2-0 victory.
Schultz walked two batters and struck out eight over 5 and 2/3 innings. One Raven reached base on an error in the seventh, but Ethan Paisley earned the save without allowing a walk or a hit.
“Pitching wise, you can't ask for a better job,” said Highland coach Seth Milledge. “And then defensively, I thought we did a very good job limiting them, and then keeping them to first base if they did get on.”
The Ravens only put one runner in scoring position all night, when Josiah Beachy took second base on a wild pitch with two outs after drawing a leadoff walk in the second inning. Schultz ended the Hillcrest threat with his third strikeout of the inning.
Senior Connor Grinstead scored both of the Huskies’ runs. Grinstead and Schultz had back-to-back one out singles in the first inning to put runners on the corners. Courtesy runner Carson Netser took off for second base and drew the attention of the defense.
“Carson did his job of getting in the pickle,” said Grinstead who scored on the play. “I kept creeping and creeping and as soon as I felt like I could break away and take off, I knew my speed could carry me to home.”
He drew a walk, stole second base, and later scored on a wild pitch in the third inning.
“Connor has been a great base runner for us for a number of years,” Milledge said. “He's listened to me, and a lot of that is instincts, getting a good secondary and those things, and he just does a very good job with that.”
The Huskies drew four walks in the third inning, but scored just once as the Ravens were able to strand three runners.
Freshman Seth Ours walked five, but allowed just two hits over the first three innings. Luke Schrock allowed just one hit and no walks in three innings of relief.
“They had a lot of traffic on the bases early, and it was a great job by Seth to limit them to just one run,” Hillcrest coach Danny Hershberger said. “That was a great job by him getting out of some tough situations, and we were able to come up with some nice catches in the outfield as well and make some plays when we needed to.”
A sixth-inning single from Logan Bonebrake was the only hit for the Huskies after the first inning. Jace Rempel had a two-out single for the Ravens in the first, and Mason Bender singled in the fifth.
The pitching performances were even more impressive with the heat and humidity that the two teams played in on Tuesday.
“You know, you can't even grip your breaking ball because it's so hot,” Milledge said. “We're going to have to invest in a rosin bag before Saturday.”
Highland improved to 22-3 with the victory, while Hillcrest finishes the season at 12-11. The Ravens lose just one senior starter, Noah Miller, who played in 13 games after returning from an ACL tear. The Ravens started three freshmen and one eighth grader on Tuesday.
“I think the biggest thing is, you look back and we've played some of the top teams in the state like New London and Kee and competed with them and proved to ourselves that we're maybe young, we may be inexperienced, but we can compete with anybody,” Hershberger said.
“We’ve got four or five freshmen and eighth grader out on the field all the time, and watching them compete and do well against really good competition has been a lot of fun to see.”
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