Walk-off double pushes Highlands baseball team past Knoch

Wednesday, April 7, 2021 | 9:02 PM

One close game is nice, but back-to-back tight wins is even better.

Thanks to junior middle infielder Seth Helgert, Highlands earned its second straight Section 1-4A triumph Wednesday, rallying for a 3-2 walk-off victory over Knoch.

Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning, Helgert stepped to the plate with runners on second and third and drilled a two-run double to the base of the fence in left-center field for the host Golden Rams (3-2, 2-0).

“I just wanted to poke something into the outfield and get those guys home,” Helgert said. “They were both in scoring position, and I was just thinking walk-off the whole time.”

Senior outfielder DJ Loveland started the seventh with a single to shallow right, and Tyrus Kerr followed with an infield hit to third base. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch before Helgert’s heroics.

“That was an exciting win,” Highlands coach Jeff Campbell said.

The teams battled back and forth all afternoon. Knoch’s Zach McMillen scored the first run in the top of the second inning on Brady Wozniak’s single, and the Golden Rams answered with a run in the bottom half of the inning.

The Knights took the lead again in the sixth inning when Luke DiSanti brought McMillen around to score on an RBI single.

Highlands stranded a runner on third in the bottom half of the inning, but Campbell never panicked.

“From No. 1 to No. 10, anybody can step up and get a base hit anytime,” Campbell said. “We counted on those guys at the bottom of the order to get on base, and I told DJ (Loveland) if you get on base, we win this ballgame. He got a hit, everyone got fired up and we won the ballgame. That’s the best part of baseball.”

For the second straight night, both teams got stellar pitching.

Highlands’ Jett Slepak allowed six hits and two runs in six innings, striking out seven.

“I kept telling him that he needs to limit his pitches, try to keep his pitch count down, and he did that today,” Campbell said. “His last outing, he gave us four good innings and his pitch count was up, but today he was right where he needed to be.”

After Brayden Hageter gave first-year Knoch coach Bradley Bestic a complete game Tuesday, Gavin Phillips strung together six strong innings and only gave up six hits. He struck out six.

“I was really proud of the effort that he put out there today,” Bestic said. “He battled through a lot, and that’s what we expect from him. He’s a senior leader, one of our top three guys, and I was really impressed with the way he performed tonight.”

Highlands sophomore Jimmy Kunst shut down Knoch in the final inning for the second straight night, striking out two and inducing a fly ball to right field.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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