116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Highland has played well all baseball season.
The Huskies contended for a Southeast Iowa Super Conference North Division title again and were on the cusp of the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association top 10 in Class 1A. They are ready to peak for the postseason.
“I think our guys are confident and we’ve got a veteran-laden group that’s played a lot of baseball for us over the last five years,” Highland Coach Seth Milledge said. “I think our guys are hitting their stride. They’re in a good spot and they’re chomping at the bit to start this postseason.”
The Huskies host Montezuma (1-14) in a 1A District 10 first-round game Saturday as the playoffs begin for 1A and 2A teams across the state. The contest is set for 7 p.m., following a quarterfinal between Hillcrest Academy and Grand View Christian at 5.
Highland has won three straight to improve to 20-3, beating BGM and Sigourney this week by a combined score of 29-6. The regular-season slate has been erased and the goal is be 1-0 after the weekend.
“We’re worried about ourselves and playing quality baseball,” Milledge said. “If we come out, play good baseball, our type of baseball, aggressive on the base paths, hitting with runners in scoring position, throwing strikes and playing quality defense, we feel we can beat a lot of teams.”
The Huskies have been strong in all facets of the game with their only losses coming to 2A Mediapolis and 1A No. 3 New London. They averaged 8.7 runs with almost 10 hits per game. Pitchers have combined for a 2.31 earned-run average, allowing 3.5 runs a contest and tallying 188 strikeouts in 148 1/3 innings. Defensively, they are fielding at a .920 clip.
“I think we’re running on all cylinders,” said Milledge, noting that he’d like to see the fielding percentage close to the .950 mark of his 2016 state tournament team. “All aspects are going in the right direction going into the postseason.”
Chase Schultz is the team’s ace. He is 8-2 with a 1.38 ERA and 72 strikeouts in less than 50 innings pitched. Ethan Paisley owns a 5-1 mark with a 2.28 ERA. Both hold opponents to about one hit and walk per inning.
Highland boasts a balanced offense with almost every starter batting at .282 or better. Trevor McFarland is hitting .493 and Connor Grinstead is at .425. Schultz has a .408 average, matching Grinstead’s .528 on-base percentage and trailing McFarland, who reaches base at a .563 rate. Senior Luke Miller (.516) gets on more than half the time for the Huskies.
“We’re led offensively by Trevor, Chase and Connor at the top of our order,” Milledge said. “They’re producing day-in and day-out.”
The Huskies still have a sour taste in their mouths from an early exit last season, falling to North Cedar in the first round. The topic isn’t broached often, but it has been in the back of their minds. The goal is to avoid the same fate and make a run at the state tournament in Carroll.
“With this senior group, they’re focused and ready to make a deep run,” Milledge said. “I think we certainly do have that chip on our shoulder.”