|Convincing 36th Semifinal Wins for Highlands Baseball, Softball|
|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands junior Grady Cramer delivers to to the plate in the win over Newport on Wednesday at Highland Park in the 36th District semifinals.|
Both the Highlands Bluebirds baseball (22-13 overall) and softball (17-10) more than continued to show why they are the teams to beat in their respective 36th District semifinal games Wednesday. The baseball team took care of the Newport Wildcats, 18-0 at Highland Park and the softball team finished off the Bellevue Tigers, 15-0 in three innings after rain Tuesday forced the postponement for day.
Both teams will play for district championships Thursday. The baseball team takes on Newport Central Catholic at 5 p.m. back at Highland Park and the softball team faces the Dayton Lady Devils (10-7) at the same time at Veterans Memorial Park in Newport. This will mark the first-ever appearance in the 36th District championship game in fast pitch softball for the Lady Devils.
The softball team scored 11 runs in the first inning against Bellevue then added two in the second and two more in the third. Seventh grader Kennedy Baioni and eighth grade pitcher Gracie Schlosser combined for a no-hitter. Baioni threw one inning striking out one and walking one and Schlosser threw two innings striking out five and walking none as neither team committed an error.
"That's one of the messages we've been sending," said Rob Coffey, Highlands Softball Head Coach. "You have to come out every day ready to play. Don't worry about the opponent. Approach the game the same way. Come with intensity. It's one-and-done season now. You can't afford to lose focus for even half of an inning in these games. We're happy with the way they addressed that."
Highlands pounded out 10 hits and took advantage of 10 walks. Eigth grader Addie Mack and sophomore Taylar Lorenzen had three runs batted in on two hits each. Lorenzen had a double. Senior Brooke Dill had three RBI on one hit. Eighth grader Anna Greenwell added two hits and junior Rachel Gabbard had two RBI one one hit. Senior Josie Daley had one RBI one one hit with seniors Alyssa Dixon, Ella Grimm and freshman Brianna Tharps adding one RBI each.
"As a team, we need everybody on the bench," said Brittney Johnson, Highlands sophomore. "It doesn't matter how many people we have. We all get incorporated in the game. You have to stay up in the dugout. You have to cheer your teammates on even if you're not in (the field playing)."
In the baseball game, Highlands scored 17 runs in the second inning to build the 18-0 lead. The Bluebirds pounded out 22 hits and took advantage of six Newport errors and four walks.
"The bottom line is you have to win to advance," said Jeremy Baioni, Highlands Head Coach. "We had a ton of production from every spot in the line-up, really every spot on the roster. It's always good to get guys post-season at-bats whether that is for some post-season experience for this year or for some of the younger guys, post-season experience for the future. It's always really good to get them in to the post-season and let them get at-bats and get in the field and play some defense because that experience is invaluable."
Junior pitcher Grady Cramer threw the first three innings for Highlands. He struck out eight and allowed just one walk and one hit. Junior Tanner Juett and senior Ryan Adkins threw one inning each combining for four strikeouts and one walk.
Highlands went 22-for-34 for a .647 batting clip in this game. Sophomore Ethan Kavanagh led Highlands going 2-for-3 with a double, four runs batted in and two runs scored. Senior Tyler Gulley homered in his lone at-bat driving in two and scoring one.
Seniors Grant Summers, Adkins, Sam Hennigan and juniors Kyle Winkler, Trey Gabbard, Cooper Schwalbach and Chris Bridwell added two hits each for Highlands. Senior Carson Fitters, Adkins, Hennigan and junior Casey Greene all scored two runs each.
"Lately, we have been keeping the bats hot and taking care of business by putting up the runs that are needed," said Nolan Turner, Highlands junior. "After that, we just keep putting on the pressure by getting runners on and scoring again. (We're) also shutting down other teams with our pitching throughout the game."
The Bluebirds baseball team will be looking for its seventh straight district championship. On the other side, the Highlands softball team will be looking to bring the district championship back to Fort Thomas after Newport Central Catholic snapped a three-year Highlands run with a 12-5 win in the title game last year.