|Highlands Softball Wins 36th Opener|
|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. The Highlands Bluebirds softball team waits at home plate after junior Rachel Gabbard hit a home run in the third inning against Newport Central Catholic. The Bluebirds won 9-0.|
But for years, the players and coaches on the Highlands Bluebirds softball team have wanted to develop that depth to compete with the top teams in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The depth once again showed itself in a crucial 9-0 36th District win over the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds on Thursday at Veterans Memorial Park. It marked the first district game for both teams.
Highlands (8-3 overall) saw 18 different players see action in the victory. That included seven different pinch hitters and a pinch runner in sophomore Brittney Johnson. Johnson scored two runs running for senior Liz Mairose after Mairose drew two walks. Freshman Brianna Tharps came in as both a pinch runner and pinch hitter.
The Bluebirds had to overcome a tough situation in the first inning. With one out, the Thoroughbreds (10-4) drew three straight walks to load the bases. But NewCath sophomore Brooke Bihl lined into a double play to eighth grader Addie Mack at third to end the threat.
"Addie made a nice play," said Rob Coffey, Highlands Head Coach. "It was tough luck for them. They hit a line drive you hope is going to get through with the bases loaded. It happens to fall in the wrong hands. It was nice momentum. We didn't come in and take advantage of it right then. But to get out of that inning was huge and it set the tone for the rest of the game, I think."
After that, the Bluebirds allowed just two base runners as eighth grader Gracie Schlosser threw a one-hitter. Bihl had that lone single in the fourth inning. The other runner came in the third when junior Kacy Zimmerman drew a fourth NewCath base on balls.
Schlosser struck out six and the Bluebirds played error-free defense behind her. To start the third, Highlands sophomore second baseman Taylar Lorenzen made a diving stop and threw to junior Rachel Gabbard at first for the out.
"We practice all the time getting dirty and doing anything for the team," Lorenzen said. "We always sacrifice our bodies. That's what I'm going to do for our team. We fought back. I'm glad we did because we got the W."
The Bluebirds recorded 10 hits in the win. Senior center fielder Brooke Dill and eighth grade shortstop Anna Greenwell both went 2-for-4 and senior catcher Josie Daley went 2-for-2 with a run batted in. Greenwell scored twice and had one RBI with Dill scoring once.
Gabbard had the big blow in the third inning blasting a home run in straightaway center field to give Highlands a 3-0 advantage. Dill started the inning with a single, stole second and reached third following a Thoroughbred error before Greenwell doubled her in.
"It's still Highlands-NC. People go to the plate tense until something kind of happens to loosen that up," Coffey said. "We came out in that inning hitting well. When Rachel hit that bomb, it kind of loosened everybody up. It's easier to hit with a lead than it is a 3-3 game in the second inning against your rival and both teams are playing well. Rachel's one of our leaders."
The Bluebirds added three more runs in the fifth to go up 6-0. Greenwell singled then moved to second and third after Gabbard and Mairose drew consecutive walks. Mack then grounded into a fielder's choice forcing Gabbard out at third, but allowing Greenwell to score. After junior Morgan Coffey was hit by a pitch to re-load the bases, Daley singled in pinch-runner Johnson. Mack then scored when Lorenzen grounded into a similar fielder's choice.
The seventh inning saw Mairose and senior pinch hitter Alyssa Dixon drew consecutive walks before senior pinch hitter Ella Grimm singled pinch runner Johnson home to make it 7-0 Bluebirds. Senior pinch hitter Baylie Ormes the singled in Dixon and Grimm scored on a NewCath throwing error for the lone unearned run of the game.
"We all try our best. Some of us rarely get the chance to jump in and make a hit," Ormes said. "So whenever we get the chance, we make sure we hit the ball on the bat and try our best on the bases. Our Coach (Coffey) always says yes, yes, no. I was going, 'Yeah. I want that.' I went for it and ended up hitting a line drive."
Highlands takes on Ashland Blazer on Friday. Game time is 7:30 p.m. back at Veterans Memorial Field.
Campbell County 2, Highlands 0:
The Bluebirds (12-6 overall) could not win the rematch against the Camels (6-8). Highlands won the first game, 8-7 on April 6.
Highlands plays host to Bellevue on Friday. Game time is 5 p.m.