A six-run sixth inning broke open a close game and helped Highland to an 11-3 win at Mount Gilead to keep them at the top of the Blue Division standings. The win pushed the Scots to 8-1 in the conference standings, while Fredericktown holds a 6-1 record.
After the Indians scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, Highland was holding onto a slim 4-3 advantage. However, it would not take them long to regain some breathing room. Wyatt Gresh led off the sixth by reaching first base after a ground ball was misplayed. Lane Ballard was hit by a pitch and Alex Wright reached on a bunt to load the bases with no one out.
Highland then got two runs on a balk followed by a wild pitch, before Shane Carney drew a walk to end MG starter Dustin McAvoy’s day. Reliever Ben Hayes struggled at first, as Chase Beam, Justin Robinson and Andrew Stillwell all tallied RBI singles to make the score 9-3. Gresh would later drive in another run with a sacrifice fly before the inning was ended.
“We came out in the sixth and failed to communicate together as a team,” said MG head coach Greg Gompf. “One thing led to another and we were down seven runs.”
Scot coach Don Kline wasn’t just pleased with his team’s offensive showing in the sixth, but also in how they were able to manufacture those runs. Highland didn’t have many hard-hit balls in the inning, but was able to get players on base and be aggressive on the base-paths to put the pressure on Mount Gilead’s defense.
“That’s what we try to stress to the boys; that we don’t care about hits and batting average, but in being on base,” said the coach. “We got a lot of leadoff hitters on and moved them around. I have to tip my cap off to the boys. Bunt practice isn’t fun because they want to hit dingers, but being able to put the ball on the grass keeps putting pressure on their defense.”
Highland would add a run in the seventh, as Robinson doubled in Jacob Fox for the team’s 11th run. Meanwhile, Conner Ulrey, after having some problems getting through the fifth, cruised through the final two innings, only giving up a single to Alex Coder that was immediately negated by a game-ending double play.
“I’m very proud of senior Conner Ulrey,” said Kline. “He works his butt off and is the heart and soul of this team. He’s a bulldog pitcher and we want him on the mound whenever we can get him.”
The Scots jumped out to a quick lead in the game. After both Stillwell and Max Schreiber reached base to open the game, Ulrey drove in one run with a single. Then, with runners on first and third, the Scots were able to execute a double steal to take a 2-0 lead after the top of the first.
“They came out and were making us play defense,” said Gompf. “We were communicating as a team and things didn’t go our way. We just have to communicate much better and if we don’t communicate as teammates, we’ll struggle the rest of the year.”
Highland added two more runs in the third. A double by Stillwell and single by Schreiber put runners at the corners. Ulrey drove one run in on a ground ball and Ballard added another run with a single to make the score 4-0.
From there, both pitchers settled down until the bottom of the fifth inning, when the Indians were able to string some offense together. With two on and two out, Noah Arrington delivered two runs with a double. Tyler Conners then made it a one-run game with an RBI single. However, Highland was able to immediately respond, scoring enough runs to pull away for an eight-run win.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS