|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands freshman Morgan Coffey makes a catch in Monday's game against Newport Central Catholic. Highlands took control of the 36th District with a convincing 8-0 win.|
But to get back there, the Highlands Ladybirds softball team knows it needs to win its second-ever 9th Region crown after winning the first one two years ago. But for the regular season, the goal is to go undefeated in 36th District and region play.
So far, it's gone well. The Ladybirds (12-6 overall) remained undefeated in district and region play at 2-0 and 6-0 respectively with a convincing 8-0 win over the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds at Veterans Park on Monday. NewCath beat Highlands at Winkler Field last year before the Ladybirds came back to beat NewCath in the district tournament championship.
"That was one of our goals at the beginning of the season," said Rob Coffey, Highlands Head Coach. "It wasn't an arrogant goal. It was a goal we felt we could achieve. We know we have four kids going on to play at the next level. That puts a target on your back. We understand that. We've been preaching since November that it's much easier to play as the underdog than it is to play with a target on your back. Every time they go out there, they have to play (hard) or someone is going to sneak up on them."
The domination started on the mound and defensively. Highlands senior Bailey Spencer (11-6) threw another complete game striking out 10 and walking just two in the two-hitter (2-for-22 for a .091 average). Highlands made just one error behind her.
NewCath junior pitcher Haley Meyers has pitched well against Highlands in the past. But the Ladybirds put runners on and capitalized on their opportunities going 6-for-26 for a .231 clip. Highlands stole four bases and took advantage of five NewCath wild pitches, three errors and five passed balls.
"We've been struggling a bit on offense against the better teams getting the ball in play," Coach Coffey said. "We've been practicing on our off days hitting in different parts of the zone and getting big wood on the ball. If we let Haley (Meyers) go out there and strike out 14 girls, we're going to be in a 2-1 barnburner game. We're confident in our defense. We know it takes more than a couple runs against us. We feel we jump out early, put some runs on the board and get to five runs, we're hard to beat in the region because we play such good defense."
Senior Shelby Graybill and sophomore Josie Daley had the big hits going 2-for-4 with two runs batted in each. Graybill doubled and scored once.
Highlands jumped on NewCath for all the runs it needed with three in its first at-bat. Haley Coffey started the rally with a single and Graybill doubled into the right center field gap to score her. Graybill then moved to third when Brennah Dutcher reached on an error. Daley grounded back to the pitcher allowing Graybill to score. But an errant throw home allowed Dutcher to score.
The Ladybirds added another run in the third when Haley Coffey singled, stole second, took third on a passed ball and scored when Daley singled to right. That increased the Ladybird lead to 4-0.
"I just try not to think about it too much or I will swing at the bad pitches," Daley said. "But I really just try to wait on my pitch. I think we're happy with where we are now. We're playing more as a team. I think if we keep improving the way we are, we're on a good track."
Brooke Dill increased the Highlands lead to 5-0 in the top of the fourth. She walked, took second on a passed ball and scored when Graybill singled.
Highlands scored two more times in the fifth inning to go up 7-0. Rachel Gabbard walked and Abby Rust ran for her. Rust stole both second and third and scored on a NewCath error. Taylor Baioni also walked and Maleah Abner ran for her. She took second on a passed ball, third on an error and scored on a wild pitch.
The final Highlands run came in the sixth inning when the Ladybirds when Haley Coffey scored her third run. Meyers hit her with a pitch the second straight at-bat and she took second when Graybill grounded out and third when Dutcher singled. Dutcher then started for second drawing a throw. Haley Coffey scored in the run-down to put Highlands up by the final score.
Highlands plays host to Covington Holmes on Wednesday. Game time is 5:30 p.m.
Highlands pitching line:
Bailey Spencer (11-6), Complete Game, 10 strikeouts, two hits, two walks, no runs, no earned runs.
Highlands offensive leaders:
Shelby Graybill, 2-for-4, double, two runs batted in, one run scored.
Josie Daley, 2-for-4, two RBI.
Haley Coffey, three runs scored.
Abby Rust, two stolen bases.
Simon Kenton 9, Highlands 2:
The Pioneers came to town and handed the Bluebirds (12-10 overall) a defeat in a battle of two recent state runners-up. Highlands fell to West Jessamine in the title game last year and Simon Kenton lost to Louisville St. Xavier in the 2014 state championship game.
Simon Kenton outhit Highlands, 12-7. Conner Kreeger led the Bluebirds going 2-for-3 with a run scored. Mark Walkenhorst batted in two.
Drew Rom (0-2) pitched into the fifth taking the loss for Highlands. He struck out four and walked two.
Simon Kenton replaced Newport on the schedule after the Wildcats forfeited the 36th District contest. The Bluebirds are 2-0 in district action as a result.
Highlands continues district action at Newport Central Catholic on Wednesday. Game time is 5 p.m. at Morscher Field.
SIMON KENTON (9) AT HIGHLANDS HIGH SCHOOL (2) SIMON KENTON AB R H BI HIGHLANDS HIGH SCHOO AB R H BI Martin 5 1 0 0 Conner Kreeger 3 1 2 0 Trattles 4 0 2 2 Trey Bowden 2 0 0 0 Kincaid 4 1 1 2 Mark Walkenhorst 4 0 1 2 Downs 4 0 2 1 Bryce Ziegler 4 0 1 0 Scott 3 0 0 0 Ethan Doty 3 0 1 0 Cole 3 1 0 0 Drew Rom 1 0 0 0 Baker 3 3 2 0 Spencer Dee 1 0 0 0 Faehr 3 2 2 0 Tyler Schwalbach 2 0 0 0 Harney 4 1 3 2 Brady Gosney 0 0 0 0 Sam Hennigan 2 0 1 0 Brad Greene 2 0 0 0 Trent Casebolt 1 1 1 0 TOTALS 33 9 12 7 TOTALS 25 2 7 2 SIMON KENTON 020 304 0 -- 9 HIGHLANDS HIGH SCHOOL 001 000 1 -- 2 LOB--SIMON KENTON 7, HIGHLANDS HIGH SCHOOL 8. ERR--Tyler Schwalbach, Joe Steiden, Bryce Ziegler, Brady Gosney. 2B-- Kincaid, Baker. HBP--Tyler Schwalbach, Conner Kreeger. SACB--Trey Bowden, Brady Gosney. SB-- Trattles, Faehr, Harney (2). SIMON KENTON IP H R ER BB SO HR Martin (W) 7.00 7 2 2 2 6 0 HIGHLANDS HIGH SCHOOL Drew Rom (L) 5.33 9 8 6 2 4 0 Spencer Dee 1.67 3 1 1 1 2 0 PB--Bryce Ziegler. WP-- Martin. SO--Kincaid (2), Baker, Scott (2), Cole, Tyler Schwalbach (2), Brad Greene, Conner Kreeger, Ethan Doty, Bryce Ziegler. BB-- Baker, Faehr, Cole, Drew Rom, Trey Bowden.