Highland wins 14th game in a row, upending North Linn for trip to state baseball

Huskies deny Lynx a second-straight substate title in battle of young teams

WILTON — Highland upset No. 6 North Linn, 3-2, in the Class 1A Substate 5 championship Wednesday to advance to the state tournament.

The winning run came by virtue of a balk call that moved No. 9 hitter Jake Wood, who reached on a walk, from third to home in the bottom of the fifth inning. The call drew the ire of North Linn fans, but it would also prove decisive.

Both Highland starter Chase Rath and North Linn starter Jake Hilmer, a ninth grader who went 13-2 and pitched at Principal Park in the state tournament as an eighth grader, struggled with command on the night.

Hilmer walked three, including the first two Highland batters of the game, both of whom scored. Rath walked five.

“We’ve been thinking about every game right now as we go in 0-0 and let’s get to 1-0,” Highland Coach Seth Milledge said. “That’s what we’ve been preaching since the postseason started, and we’ve continued to do that and obviously it’s working out for us.”

With that approach, the Huskies will need to go 1-0 in three more games to win a state title, but with a 14-game win streak going, the Huskies are confident going into the state tournament, and they have every right to be.

North Linn entered the game with a 34-9 record and had given up just two runs in district play.

While he struggled with command early on, Rath settled in as the game wore and the sun set.

He walked the second batter of the seventh inning, to bring the No. 2 and 3 hitters of North Linn up, but one grounded out to short and the other struck out swinging.

“Just calm down, take a deep breath, get in, and throw strikes,” Rath said. “We haven’t been [to state] in awhile. It means a lot.”

For Spencer Weiland, the only senior to play between the two teams, the win was extra special. He had not been to state with the Huskies before Wednesday.

“We can play with any team in the state the way we’ve been playing,” Weiland said. “Just the rush of joy that went through my body was amazing. Just knowing that it’s over and the pressure is gone from this game. Now we’ve got to work towards the next one and enjoy it while we can.”

The Huskies may be the hottest team in the state going into the tournament, while Rath won his eighth game of the season.

“We’re riding a 14-game winning streak going into state,” Milledge said. “We feel pretty good about ourselves.”

l Comments: ian.murphy@thegazettecompany.com

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