RIVERSIDE — There is a saying in baseball about how a pitcher can help his own cause. Carson Sprouse certainly did that for Keota, creating his own fireworks when his hit tied the game and his run scored gave Keota a 6-4 victory over Highland Friday in a nonconference baseball game.
“When I was at bat, I was just thinking we have to have this right now,” Sprouse said of his two-out double over the outfielders’ heads that one hopped to the fence. “When it’s been my turn, I have been hitting the ball in the worst spots all year. If there was one player on the field, I would probably hit the ball to him. I was just thinking that I have to make contact and put the ball in play. That is what happened.”
The rally put a damper on Highland’s Senior Night as it honored Bill Laughlin, Cael Yeggy, Mason McFarland and Grant Colbert.
“This was still a celebration of our seniors’ careers,” Highland head coach Seth Milledge said. “They have accomplished a lot. They have won a conference championship their sophomore year and we have set ourselves up for another one this year.”
Highland took a 2-0 lead in a second inning highlighted by Luke Miller’s double.
Keota tied it in the top of the third when Nolan Verstraete and Tyler Waterhouse scored.
Highland made it 4-2 in the fourth when Colbert and McFarland scored.
Yeggy pitched four innings with four strikeouts, three hits, three walks and no earned runs. Chase Schultz threw the last three innings with three strikeouts, four hits and four runs, but none earned.
Sprouse went six innings with eight strikeouts, five hits and two walks allowed. Two of the four runs were earned. Luke Hammen came in and finished off the game with a strikeout, a ground out and a strikeout.
“I usually go with a two-seam curveball and a change up,” Sprouse said. “I’d like to use my two-seam a lot and it seems to move in on the batter. I like to get ahead early in the count and close them out with my curveball.”
Sprouse’s pitch moved in a lot as he hit six batters.
“Apparently my two-seamer was working good,” Sprouse said. “If they were leaning into it, I guess it’s smart on the batters’ part. Anything to get on base, I guess.”
Keota improves its record to 5-5 with its third win in its last four games, including a 1-0 win Thursday at Colfax-Mingo when Colten Clarahan struck out 12 with no walks in a three-hitter and went 2-for-3 at the plate. Sprouse scored the only run of the game.
Down 4-2 in the top the seventh inning Friday, Keota head coach Dakota McCombs reminded the Eagles about last year’s game against Highland, a rally from a 6-0 deficit to win 7-6. “We had the top of the order up to bat, so that is the best position we can be in,” he said. “Last year we peaked early and faded off. This year we faded early and I think we are starting to peak now.”
Sprouse’s game-tying hit may have been his best hit of the year. “I’ll take it. That’s why we play baseball, for stories like this. This is going to be a big boost for our confidence”
Highland is 6-4 with an important game Wednesday against Mediapolis after Lone Tree Monday and Sigourney Tuesday.
“We did not finish this game,” Milledge said. “It was a good game all the way until the end when we did not execute on pitches and we did not execute in the field late. Then they hit the ball and that is what will happen. This is the same thing that happened last year. It’s plain and simple. We have to finish the game. We do that and we go out as a winner.”