Highland beats Nazareth, wins Class 3A state title

SHARE Highland beats Nazareth, wins Class 3A state title
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The state semifinals on Friday were all about waiting. Numerous rain delays resulted in all four games starting late. Saturday was an entirely different story.

“We got a 7:20 a.m. call that said ‘oh your game is at nine’ we had to check out, get breakfast and that was the first fight,” said Highland coach Joel Hawkins. “That’s how things started and it was a fight from there forward.”

The Illinois High School Association decided early Saturday morning to move the Class 3A and 4A title games to 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. They were originally scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., but the idea was to get the title games in before any rain could fall.

The unexpected early start time was washed away by a well-played, back and forth game. Highland won the Class 3A state title with a 7-6 win over Nazareth courtesy of a walk-off single by senior Grant Geppert.

“Both teams really battled,” said Nazareth coach Lee Milano. “The game could have gone either way. I’m extremely proud of our kids. They fought and didn’t give in.”

Nazareth had a chance to take the lead in the top of the seventh. The Roadrunners had the bases loaded and just one out. Joe Muscalino grounded out and then Richie Kiernicki roped a ball down the third base line. Highland third baseman Griffin Welz knocked the ball down, grabbed it and tapped third base to get a force out and end the inning.

“Griffin made an unbelievable play,” said Hawkins. “He scrambled around and found the handle.”

Cody Bentlage was 3 for 4 with two runs scored and Will Greenwald was 2 for 4 with two runs scored for the Bulldogs (32-9).

Matt Flach had three hits with a run and a RBI for Nazareth (28-13). Christopher Campagna started for the Roadrunners. He pitched three and 1/3, allowing two runs on four hits. Carson Bartles, Donald Kelly, Kyle Kane and Matt Wilson all threw in relief for Nazareth.

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