Grant Geppert Leads Highland To State Title Game Matchup With Nazareth



By Ryan Quigley
Illinois Scouting Director

JOLIET, ILGrant Geppert did it all on Friday afternoon for the Highland Bulldogs in a 13-0 win over Morgan Park in the second Class 3A state semifinal at Silver Cross Field in downtown Joliet.

The Bulldogs (27-13) exploded for 13 runs on eight hits, while also be aided by four Morgan Park errors. Geppert led the way both on the mound (four shutout innings) and at the plate (3-for-4, two singles, three-run home run, two runs scored).

Highland got on the board in the top of the second against Mustangs’ starter Christian Bullock (3-4). After a leadoff walk to junior first baseman Jordan Smith to start the inning, Bullock failed to cut down the leadoff runner at second base on a bunt attempt by senior catcher Matt Augustin.  A walk loaded the bases after a strikeout, and a wild pitch scored Smith. With two outs, junior leftfielder Will Greenwald singled into shallow right field, scoring two runs and giving the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead.

Three runs was more than Geppert would need, impressing through his four shutout innings of three-hit baseball. The Olney Central-commit did not walk a batter, struck out two, and only threw 51 pitches.

“My nerves went away watching us hit and the lineup putting up runs for me. I was trying to run the fastball inside, pitching to contact”, said Geppert.

Longtime coach Joel Hawkins said, “It was up to Grant to slow them down. We didn’t know a whole lot about them, and they obviously had a lot of ability in pregame, with team speed all over the diamond.”

Highland added four runs in the top of the third, all unearned after a dropped fly ball in right field with two outs allowed two runs to score and start the rally. Senior second baseman Tyler Kimmle capped the scoring with a two-run RBI single between short and third to make it 7-0 Bulldogs.

Senior centerfielder Andrew Winning added an RBI-single to center in the fourth, and the Bulldogs put the game away with a five run fifth, highlighted by Geppert’s 3-run home run to right field.

Only one of the thirteen runs scored by Highland was earned, as the four defensive miscues by Morgan Park came back to haunt them. Junior centerfielder/shortstop Darius Hill, rightfielder Josh Shaw, first baseman Jameil Brown, and catcher Michael Hawthorne all posted singles for the Mustangs, who fall to 25-13 with the loss.

Sam Greene threw a scoreless fifth inning for Highland, perhaps allowing Geppert to come back in relief in tomorrow’s state championship game, which the Bulldogs will go with a pitcher-by-committee approach.

The 12 pm start for the semifinal game was delayed nearly four hours, as several rain delays in game one pushed back the schedule. The Highland Park players passed the time in the field house at Joliet Central across the street staying loose playing “wall ball” a make-it-up-as-you-go game.

Highland will attempt to capture the second state championship in school history tomorrow at 11:30 against Nazareth. Their first state title came in 2008, on a Jake Odorizzi (current major leaguer with the Tampa Rays) led squad that belted 47 home runs during the regular season.

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