Highland baseball edged by Coldwater in regionals


Stranded baserunners proved costly for Highland when they traveled to Patrick Henry High School on Thursday to take on Coldwater in a Division III regional semifinal baseball contest.

The Scots (27-4) finished with 12 hits in the game and also drew five walks and benefited from a Cavalier error, but could only put two runs on the board. Meanwhile, Coldwater took advantage of their five hits and eight walks to finish on top by a 4-2 margin.

“You have to tip your cap to Coldwater,” said head coach Don Kline. “They made the pitches when they needed to. We’re a good hitting team and we’re usually pretty fundamentally sound and today, we weren’t able to get those runners across the plate. We had traffic all day long and again, tip your hat to Coldwater because they’re the ones who did not allow us to score runs.”

The Scots would strike first, scoring once in the top of the first inning. With one out, Kort Sears recorded a single, Zach Church was walked and Hayden Kline reached on a bunt single to load the bases. A passed ball issued during Jace Brooks’ at bat brought home one runner, but another was thrown out on the bases and Coldwater would then record the third out of the inning to keep the score at 1-0.

In the second inning, after Hendrick Karya opened with a lead-off single, the Cavaliers recorded two outs before Rhett Russell recorded a bunt single and Jayden Collins was walked to load the bases. However, Highland would come up empty-handed.

Meanwhile, Sears was able to get through the first two innings unscathed, although it wasn’t easy. The junior pitched worked around a pair of walks in the first inning and was able to record two straight outs with the bases loaded to escape the second inning with his team still up 1-0.

However, the third frame would be a different story, as Coldwater was able to take advantage of getting their first two batters on base with a two-run single to take the lead.

Highland would have chances to knot the game or take the lead in each of the next three innings, but would not be able to capitalize on them, stranding two runners each time. The Cavaliers then got some breathing room in the bottom of the sixth, getting a two-out, two-run triple to increase their advantage to a 4-1 count.

With one chance left to keep alive in the playoffs, the Scots came close to making that happen. Church was walked to open the inning and Hayden Kline followed with a single to put runners on first and second. Coldwater would then record two outs, but a single by Evan Johnson loaded the bases and a walk issued to Gavin Wiggand brought a run across to make it a 4-2 game. However, the Cavaliers would rebound to finish the game with a strikeout.

“I’d love to hit reset and start that one over again because this group of guys is so much fun to be around,” said Don Kline. “This senior class and this chapter of Highland baseball has been an absolute blast. It’s been a fun one; you hate to see it end. I’d love to play all summer long, but it’s not realistic, I understand. We’ve got to say goodbye to these guys — it’s been a fun run.”

Brooks recorded a double in the game for Highland. Johnson added three singles, while both Hayden Kline and Russell had two. Sears pitched 5.1 innings, with Kline getting the final two outs of the sixth inning. The duo combined to strike out seven, walk eight and give up five hits.

Don Kline added that the program will greatly miss a senior class which had a lot of success over the past four years, being part of a regional championship run as freshmen and returning to regionals as seniors.

“I thanked the upperclassmen for everything they’ve given us,” he said. “That senior class was one of the winning-est classes in program history. Four straight league titles, a couple district championships, I think over 90 wins in four years — they’ve had a hell of a career. They also were a group that showed the boys how to be a better ball club and how to be a family. They worked hard. We didn’t have to get on them about anything.”

Kline, who noted that having a family atmosphere is crucial to having a successful program, now will hope a number of talented returnees, including the team’s top two pitchers in Sears and Church, can maintain that sort of tight-knit clubhouse.

“We always say every season is a chapter,” he said. “You hate to see this chapter end, but the next chapter should be a good one. It’s one where we bring back a lot of experience. Our front arms will be back, so the biggest step for them will be the leadership role. Are they able to look at Evan and Drew (Altizer) and Jace and Hayden and do what they did? Are they able to fill their leadership in their own way? They’ll have to be the tip of the spear that leads our program forward.”

Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS

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