GALION — Highland moved a step closer to a Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference baseball title following a 6-3 win over Northmor on Thursday.
“I think coming into this game we tried to reiterate what a good team Northmor is,” said Highland coach Don Kline. “Coach (Buck) Workman is a fantastic coach; very experienced. You gotta tip your cap to Northmor. That was a fun game. It was an old school baseball game. When you play these kinds of games, it’s the team that makes the fewer amount of mistakes that’s usually the team that ends up winning the baseball game.
“Early on, we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be, but I thought, as the game progressed, we started making Highland plays, if you will, playing a little Highland baseball. We’re a small ball team. That’s our bread and butter.”
Northmor struck first in the home half of the first inning when Max Lower scored on a two-out single to left field by Andrew Armrose. Lower reached base with a lead-off walk. The 1-0 advantage only held up for half an inning, though.
The Fighting Scots (19-1, 12-1 KMAC) tied the game in the top half of the second inning after Jon Jensen singled and scored on a sacrifice fly to right field by Brock Church. The aforementioned small ball played a key factor in Highland knotting the score at 1-1. Jensen moved to second base when KJ Johnson drew a walk and advanced to third base on a bunt single by Blake Jodrey, setting the stage for Church’s RBI.
Rider Minnick provided the game’s only big play in the top of the fourth inning, driving a 3-run home run over the left field fence to give the Scots a 4-1 cushion and cement their advantage. Johnson and Jodrey scored on Minnick’s blast. Johnson hit a one-out single and Jodrey was hit by a pitch to give Highland two base runners for Minnick.
Highland added insurance runs in the sixth and seventh innings, respectively. Jensen led off the sixth inning with a single and later scored on a Northmor error. In the seventh inning, Randy Cain hit a lead-off double to center field and later scored on a bunt by Cooper Merckling.
Northmor (14-7, 7-6 KMAC) pulled back two runs in the sixth inning, but couldn’t complete the comeback. Max Lower led off the inning with a base hit to center field and Pierce Lower reached base on an error by the Scots shortstop. Max Lower later scored on a passed ball and Pierce Lower touched home plate following a fly ball by Garrett Corwin. Armrose was thrown out at third trying to advance after Pierce Lower scored, ending the inning.
Preston Harbolt and Griffin Workman reached base for the Golden Knights with only out in the home half of the seventh inning, but Scots relief pitcher Owen Mott retired the final two batters to end the game.
“Highland’s the type of team that when they get base runners on, they’re one swing away from doing just what they did, hitting it out of the park,” Northmor coach Buck Workman said. “We kind of danced around it most every inning, but that one inning, they hit that three-run shot. I feel like we’re playing decent. There’s little things, base running mistakes here and there that come back to bite us. We need to clean that up. Lately, we just haven’t been able to get run in.”
Highand’s Wyatt Groves started and earned the win after giving up three runs (one earned) on two hits in six innings of work. Groves struck out seven batters and walked three.
Mott earned the save after pitching one scoreless inning. He gave up one hit and recorded a strikeout and a walk.
“(Groves and Mott) are two experienced pitchers,” Kline said. “They’re both seniors. Wyatt Groves has been our ace this year. I think that’s win number six for him. He just does a fantastic job. … Owen Mott is our closer, if you will, and he’s kind of a side-arm thrower with a wiffle ball approach. It’s kind of hard to square him up.”
Grant Bentley pitched a complete game for Northmor. He recorded five strikeouts and two walks. He gave up seven hits.
“Our starting pitching’s been keeping us in games,” Workman said. “It’s been huge. We roll out primarily two freshmen and a junior. I can’t ask for much more than what they’ve done.”
Randy Cain and Jensen each had two hits for Highland. Minnick, Johnson, and Jodrey each had a hit. Minnick’s three RBI led the Scots.
Max Lower, Armrose, and Harbolt accounted for the Knights three hits.
The Scots and Knights are scheduled to play again on Friday at Marengo.