RIVERSIDE — An athlete’s memory is long, especially when it can recall a bad outing against a rival.
Highland’s Cael Yeggy took the mound Tuesday against Southeast Iowa Super Conference North Division foe Lone Tree and recorded a 7-4 victory with nine strikeouts, four hits and one walk through six innings. Laughlin took the mound for the seventh but two walks to the first two batters brought Bill Laughlin in from left field to finish the game.
“I was hoping I could finish it out and get the complete game but I don’t know what I was thinking,” Yeggy said. “My arm got tired a little bit.”
Laughlin struck out the first batter, hit the second to load the bases, struck out the third batter he faced, then issued a walk that brought a run in. That increased the tension, but Laughlin got the last out of the game on three pitches, all strikes.
When Lone Tree took a 3-2 lead with two runs in the top of the fifth inning, Laughlin tied the game as the leadoff batter in the bottom of the fifth with a bomb that cleared the right-center field fence.
“To me Laughlin was a first team all-conference player last year, at least he should’ve been,” Highland head coach Seth Milledge said. “He was voted a second team outfielder. To me and everybody else we played, he was first team. I think he’s going to continue to show that during this year. He’s a senior and he’s going to have a great year. He has developed a lot of power. For him to hit it out to right center shows what he can do. We work on that because we see outside breaking balls all the time and Bill has shown what he can do. He has seen it for three years, so it shows his maturation. hes continue to improve his game and I think he’s going to have a big year even though it is a shortened season.”
The season has been shortened due to a late start because of the coronavirus, but that didn’t stop a large contingent of fans from both teams from attending the game.
It also motivated Yeggy to pitch extra well.
“Through all four years of my playing, that was probably my best outing on the mound,” Yeggy said.
He said the pitch that was working for him was “definitely the fastball.”
His coach said there was extra motivation for Yeggy’s performance.
“Cael really stepped up for us on the mound,” Milledge said. “He had some payback in mind after he had a rough outing at Lone Tree last year when we got 10-spotted. He basically wanted to right some wrongs in my book and he did a great job of that.”
Highland evened its overall record and North record at 1-1 after falling to Hillcrest Monday night, 8-5, after leading 5-2.
“It felt great to get the win,” Yeggy said. “Last night we gave up the lead late so we learned we just have to keep fighting all the way to the end. We never give up. We always stay in the game. We know we have to finish. We got to keep working hard in practice and on the field.”
Milledge saw a different Huskies team from Monday.
“(Monday) night we played a good game but we just didn’t finish,” he said. “We were up three runs and had two outs in the sixth inning but gave up six runs in that inning. It was a failure to finish. We did not continue to add runs in the middle innings. (Tuesday) was kind of the same thing but you saw us add runs late. They helped us out with some passed balls but if you put yourself on base and get in position you are only helping yourself.”
Highland had five hits and three runs against the Lions’ ace Keegan Edwards but he was relieved for the sixth inning and the Huskies were gifted two hit batters and three walks by his replacement.
“We are going to see everybody’s ace pitcher because we are Highland,” Milledge said. “We saw Hillcrest’s Eli Ours and we will see pekin’s ace and Mepo’s. That is just how it is.”
He also said that is not necessarily a bad thing as it will prepare the Huskies for a postseason run.