Offensive struggles led to an off day for the Highland baseball team when they ended up on the short end of a 4-0 contest at home against Marion Harding on Tuesday.
Highland was held to four hits in the game, as President pitcher Austin Allen went the distance, striking out five and walking one. Highland coach Don Kline felt his players simply couldn’t get into a rhythm against the Harding pitcher.
“It’s one of those games,” he said. “They came out there. I have to tip my hat off to Austin Allen. He pitched well and kept us off-balance.”
Harding got on the board in the first inning, taking advantage of a leadoff walk issued by Scot pitcher Blake Jodrey to push a runner across home plate. The Scots tried to respond in their half of the inning. Brock Church was hit by a pitch with one out and a walk to Kort Sears put two on with two out. However, the Marion school was able to get out of the inning before any damage could be done.
Cooper Merckling led off the second inning with a single, but couldn’t advance past second base to keep Highland behind by one run going into the third. After giving up a leadoff single in that inning, Jodrey got the next two batters out, but before he could get the third, Harding had recorded back-to-back singles and put a second run on the scoreboard.
Highland had another scoring opportunity in the fourth frame when Luke Cain singled with one out and then took second on an Allen pitch that got past the catcher. However, he would not be able to advance any farther as the Presidents were able to record two straight outs to keep the Scots scoreless through four.
Harding would double their lead in the top of the fifth. They got their first two runners on base via a hit batter and a single. A sacrifice bunt moved them to second and third base with one out. One run would come in on a wild pitch and a second scored on a groundout to give MH a four-run lead.
After going down in order in the fifth, the Scots got their best scoring opportunity of the day in the sixth inning. Church led off with a single and Zach Pinkerton was hit by a pitch to put the team’s first two runners on base. However, Allen was able to get the first out via strikeout. A groundout by Cain moved the runners to second and third, but also was the second out of the inning. Then, another groundout got Harding out of the inning.
The team would get a leadoff single by Hayden Kline in the seventh inning, but a double play ended that threat and Harding was able to pull off the win. Highland fell to 5-3, 4-1 in league play, with the loss.
Kline noted that his team is learning what it takes to compete in the MOAC this spring.
“That’s what the boys are figuring out,” he said. “It’s a fun league. If you don’t respect your opponent or the game, you’ll be in trouble. I tip my hat to Harding. They did a lot of right things. They put the ball in play and played good defense.”
Church, Merckling, Cain and Kline got the team’s four hits — all singles. On the mound, Jodrey suffered the loss. He struck out seven and walked one in five innings, while giving up seven hits. Pinkerton struck out five and gave up two hits in pitching the sixth and seventh frames.
While the weather has made it tricky for Highland to get games in — at least on the day they were scheduled to be played — Kline isn’t using that as an excuse, noting that’s a problem that all area teams have had to deal with.
“Baseball players are the most adjustable because they deal with this all the time,” he said. “It’s their second nature to be creative because they don’t know where they’re going or when they’re going there.”