|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands catcher Luke Hennigan (13) takes a swing in a recent game.|
The Bluebirds (19-7) had not lost two straight all season, nor had they lost to a 9th Region opponent. But that changed when they traveled here Saturday.
The Covington Catholic Colonels (18-4) handed the Bluebirds two defeats in a doubleheader. The Colonels run-ruled the Bluebirds, 15-5 in six innings before winning the second game, 5-4 in eight innings.
"We discussed some things we need to work on that will be magnified when you play really, really good teams," said Jeremy Baioni, Highlands Head Coach about the between-game discussions. "Our guys have done well offensively. We told them it's not going to last forever. In baseball, as soon as you have it figured out, it's going to punch you in the mouth. We're right there. We haven't put the big hits together. We've been close with teams in the number of hits, but it's the timeing of the hits. We're getting hit with no body one. That's baseball."
Highlands has lost three in a row. The Bluebirds dropped a 6-2 decision to Cincinnati St. Xavier on Friday in Fort Thomas.
Highlands had won its first five contests of the season against 9th Region opponents. The Bluebirds dropped to 13-4 overall against teams from Kentucky.
The first game was close until the sixth inning. That is when CovCath scored eight runs on seven hits to force the run-ruling. Ryan McGinness, Nate Bailey and Nick Stegman had two hits each to lead CovCath and Nico Pangallo scored three runs and had three runs batted in. Noah Galvin also had three RBI.
CovCath outhit Highlands, 10-7. Brady Murray singled and doubled to lead the Bluebirds. He had two RBI.
The Colonels scored five times in the second to go up 5-0. Pangallo delivered the big blow with a bases-loaded double.
Ricky Raisor took the pitching loss for Highlands and Adam Ruwe picked up the pitching win. Raisor pitched into the fifth inning striking out three and Ruwe threw a complete game. Ruwe had just one strikeout.
Highlands outhit CovCath, 11-7 in the second game. Joseph Martin went 3-for-4 with a double, two runs scored and two RBI and Todd Ramey went 2-for-4 with a double and run scored.
The Bluebirds scored first. Murray led off with a single, advanced to third on a Ramey double and scored when Whitford singled.
But the Colonels came back with two unearned runs in the first. Pangallo and McGinnis scored with two out when Highlands dropped a fly ball.
"That's part of it," Baioni said. "We stress to our pitchers throwing strikes to keep our guys in the game. (CovCath) got the better of us. They outcoached us. But we're going to do just fine. We're going to learn from our mistakes and get better."
Highlands tied it up at 2-2 in the second when Martin doubled. Grayson Heck bunted him to third before Kyle Rust hit a sacrifice fly to bring him home.
CovCath regained the lead at 3-2 in the bottom of the frame before Highlands tied it in the fourth. Martin singled, took second on a wild pitch and scored when Rust singled.
After the Colonels scored in the fourth, Highlands tied it up again in the fifth. Ramey singled then moved to second and third on two wild pitches before Martin singled him home.
Highlands loaded the bases in the eighth with one out. But the Bluebirds tried to squeeze bunt. Alex Veneman could not get it down and CovCath tagged pinch-runner Jacob Noe out at home. Veneman then grounded out to end the threat.
The Colonels then loaded the bases with one out in the eighth against Martin, who relieved starter Ethan Doty. CovCath pitcher Cameron Pitzer hit one to the left of the mound. No one picked it up for Highlands allowing the game-winning run to score.
Pitzer picked up the win in the complete game. He struck out just one.
Highlands plays host to Boone County on Monday. Game time is 4:30 p.m.