Jul 22, 2016 at 9:59 pm | Print View
DES MOINES — Highland entered the state tournament as one of the hottest teams.
The Huskies won 14 straight games, including the second state berth in program history and first since 1984. The only problem is they ran into an opponent with a longer streak.
Remsen St. Mary’s won its 20th straight game, scoring six runs in its final two at-bats, including a five-run sixth, for a 10-5 victory over Highland in the Class 1A state quarterfinals Friday night at Principal Park.
The game was a roller coaster that saw the Huskies face a four-run deficit after two innings and their first lead with 2 1/2 remaining.
“A lot of teams when you get down 4-0 in the state tournament some of them just roll over,” first-year Huskies head coach Seth Milledge said. “We battled back, took the lead and unfortunately didn’t come out on top.
“I’m very proud of what we did and what our guys were able to do this year.”
Highland (24-6) suffered a slow start. The Huskies struggled at the plate as St. Mary’s starter Jacob Wesselmann struck out the first four batters and retired the first six in order. Even though the Hawks manufactured two runs in the first with three hits, a hit batsman, walk, a couple wild pitches and a balk helped with two more in the second.
Jitters played a role early.
“I think it was nerves mostly,” junior Chase Rath said. “We haven’t been up here. I think we just came out really nervous and had to settle down at the end.”
The tide changed in the fifth and the Huskies battered Wesselmann, who had struck out seven through the first four innings.
The Huskies rapped five hits, including a leadoff single from Josh Michel, who scored their first run on Jake Wood’s bloop single to left field. Spencer Wieland, the lone senior in Highland’s lineup, drove in Trent Lasek, making it 4-2.
Rath delivered a two-run triple down the first-base line, tying the score. Bill Burton followed with an RBI double to score courtesy runner Robert Yoder.
“We’ve been doing that a lot this year,” said Burton, who led the Huskies with two hits. “Late in games we’ll put five or six up in an inning. It’s just something we’ve been doing that has won us a lot of games.”
The dugout became electrified during the rally. The Huskies looked to be in control, owning a 5-4 lead and momentum.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Burton said. “Everybody is up and yelling. It’s a good atmosphere.”
The Hawks (31-5) answered with one in the bottom of the fifth on an error. They broke things open in the sixth, getting a one-out RBI double that scored Derrick Schorg with the go-ahead run. Schorg dove across the plate just in front of the relay throw.
Brady Portz added a two-run single to cap the scoring.
Highland had a chance to take command in the sixth, but reliever Connor Clark tallied a strikeout for the final out with the bases loaded. The Huskies stranded six runners total.
“We responded and got our team back in it and gave ourselves a chance,” Milledge said. “Obviously, we just came up short in the end.”
This has been a banner year for the Huskies. They set a school record for victories. The loss doesn’t damper their overall success.
“I think we had a great season,” Rath said. “Everybody was coming to play and was focused for this season.”
The Huskies return all but two players on their roster. Milledge said they have the potential to improve on this year’s finish.
“We definitely want to get back up here,” Burton said. “Hopefully, we’ll do a little better than this time.”
Wesselmann led the Hawks with three hits, Harpenau had two RBIs and Clark pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings for his 11th win. Fourth-seeded St. Mary’s will face No. 1 seed and defending state champion Mason City Newman (33-5) on Thursday. Newman beat Nodaway Valley, 12-2, in six innings Friday night.
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