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Highland senior trio leads 6-0 start, helps coach earn 100th win

Highland senior trio leads 6-0 start, helps coach earn 100th win

HIGHLAND — John Bogner was already planning his postgame speech.

Highland's coach knew his team was dead in the water — until it wasn't.

"I was getting ready to tell them, 'You can't beat good teams like Crown Point and not execute,'" Bogner said. " ... Then all of a sudden we started chipping away, and when our last guy got hit (by a pitch) and we ended up winning on a walk off, the guys ran onto the field. I was just yelling, 'Mask up! Mask up!'"

Bogner, who is in his eighth year at the helm, was so concerned with his team's COVID-19 safety protocols that it took a moment for the Trojans' victory to sink in. Highland rallied to earn a 5-4 home win over Crown Point in eight innings on April 3, erasing a 4-0 deficit in the bottom of the seventh.

But, to make the comeback even more memorable, it also turned out to be the 100th victory of Bogner's career.

"One of the kids had to tell me like, 'Hey, that's 100!' and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I forgot!'" Bogner said, laughing. "When I turned around, my wife had balloons for me, and the AD had a nice presentation for me."

Bogner added that his oldest son, Justin, a 2020 Highland grad and former player, was in the stands, and his youngest son, Jordan, a freshman player, was in the dugout to watch him make history. If that wasn't enough, Bogner mentioned that his milestone actually came at the expense of his Godsons, Crown Point senior twins Dom and Anthony Sainato.

Bogner, a 1990 Griffith alum, said his family connections turned that improbable win into a special day for a special group.

The Trojans are 6-0 this season, and senior trio Austin Pizer, Camden Scheidt and Matthew Gonzales are leading the way.

Pizer, Highland's ace, registered seven strikeouts in the team's victory against Crown Point. He's pitched 13 innings this season with a 1.08 ERA.

"Me and Matt actually called that game," Pizer said. "Coach said that was the first time in forever that he let the pitcher and catcher call the game, and it was a pretty big win for us. That one kept me up the night before because I was so ready for it."

Pizer credited his team's success during that contest and its overall hot start to its preparation. Pizer, Gonzales and Scheidt spent hours breaking down film on Crown Point and creating a scouting report for each of the Bulldogs' players.

Gonzales said those extra study sessions have been especially helpful for him since he wasn't originally supposed to be the team's starting catcher. Normally, Gonzales plays at shortstop.

"It was a last-minute decision because the catcher who was supposed to play this year decided not to," Gonzales said. "There's been some spots here and there that have been a little iffy, but I think personally I've been pretty solid back there and doing what needs to get done. ... Like Austin said, it's been a long time since coach let a pitcher and catcher call some games, so I think that shows he has a lot of trust in us."

While Gonzales takes charge behind the plate, Scheidt has stepped up at the plate. The center fielder is batting a team-high .565 with 13 hits, two RBIs and 11 runs scored.

Scheidt said he is extremely proud of his team's resiliency, evidenced by two more come-from-behind wins against New Prairie and Kankakee Valley on April 7 and April 13, respectively.

However, the Trojans aren't satisfied with a strong start and their coach's 100 victory. They want to win when it matters most.

Two years ago, Highland lost 4-3 to Lake Central in a Class 4A sectional final, blowing a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning. Scheidt and his teammates are still motivated by that heartbreaking defeat.

"We've reached the sectional championship in each of the last three seasons that we've been able to play, and this last one definitely left a bad taste in our mouths," Scheidt said. "It's been 21 years since we won a sectional, so we're really hungry to get it done."


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Lake County Sports Reporter

James Boyd is the Lake County prep sports reporter for The Times. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a proud native of Romeoville, Illinois. Before anything else, his main goal in life is to spread love and light.

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