Demons score late to top HighlandWashington scores three runs in the bottom of the sixth to win 6-3
CEDAR RAPIDS — Neither of the Washington baseball team’s first two games were pretty, but the Demons finished the opening week of the season with a handsome 2-0 record.
The most recent victory came on Thursday night, when Washington’s pitchers combined to walk nine Highland batters, but the Demons rallied for a 6-3 non-conference victory at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids.
“That was a very tough win,” Washington head coach Nathan Miller said. “When you walk nine guys and you commit two throwing errors at first base it really puts you in a hole, but I was very pleased with the way our kids continued to battle and kind of just chip away and do some things right.”
Washington sophomore Blake Weidman, who was making his first varsity start on the mound, walked the first two batters he faced, and a wild pitch put runners on second and third. Highland senior Derrick Stewart stole home, leaping over Demon catcher Jake Dickinson and then scrambling back to touch the plate, to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead.
The Demons tied the game in the bottom of the first when junior Tanner Knupp came home to score on a Highland throwing error. But two runs scored on a Washington throwing error in the top of the second inning to put the Huskies ahead 3-1.
Knupp reached on an error, stole second, went to third on a passed ball and scored on junior Jacob Green’s groundout in the third inning. And senior Ezra Graber drove in a run with an infield single in the fourth inning to tie the game.
Meanwhile, senior Austin Witt replaced Weidman on the mound in the third inning and threw 3 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball even though he walked four batters.
Junior Elijah Wood took the mound with two outs and a runner on second base in the sixth inning and struck out Highland sophomore Lane Welsh to end the threat.
The Demons finally grabbed the lead in the bottom of the sixth, mainly through small ball and solid base running. Senior Kyle Roder walked with one out, and Graber bunted but reached base on an error. After a double steal, Roder scored on Knupp’s infield single. Green drove in a run when he grounded out, and then junior Walker Breard singled through the infield to put the Demons ahead 6-3.
“Mine was definitely not a hard-hit ball,” said Knupp, who finished 2-for-4 and scored three runs. “It was right off the handle, a dinker over the pitcher’s head. But we’ll take a base hit any way we can get it, and that’s how we did it. There were a couple of ground balls up the middle and a couple of ground balls to the left and right of the infield. We’ll take base hits any way they come, whether it’s a home run or whether it’s a little dinker over the pitcher’s head.”
Wood issued a leadoff walk in the top of the seventh, but then struck out the next three Highland batters he faced to seal Washington’s win.
“The last guy can sometimes be the most important pitcher of the game,” Miller said. “That’s why the closer position in the major leagues is such a high-dollar position. It was the right time. They had a lefty up. With four outs to go, what better time to bring him into the game.”
Breard went 2-for-4 and drove in a run for the Demons, Wood had the game’s only double, and Dickinson, Witt and Graber each added a single.
The Huskies drew nine walks, but also stranded nine runners on base in the contest. Juniors Josh Brase and Jesse Hootman had Highland’s only two hits in the game.
“We stranded a lot of runners,” Highland head coach Mike Mills said. “We just need to get more solid hits in a timely fashion. We left nine runners on base, and we’re not getting that big hit to score two or three runs when we need it.”
Because Highland (0-4) wasn’t able to get that big hit, the Demons were able to escape with another win.
“It wasn’t pretty, but a win’s a win,” Knupp said. “We got the W.”