Story Matters

Story Matters

THE Official HHS Football Site

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Bluebirds defeat Elder, 2-1

Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

The Highlands Bluebirds baseball team recorded a huge road victory Saturday afternoon.

Highlands crossed the Ohio River and knocked off the host Cincinnati Elder Panthers, 2-1 to snap a two-game losing streak. The Bluebirds moved to 4-5 with the win.

Joseph Martin (2-0) picked up the pitching win for Highlands. He pitched 6 2/3 innings and allowed just five hits. Gabe Schultz recorded the final out for his first save of the year for the Bluebirds.

Hector Molina led Highlands going 2-for-4 with a run. Schultz and Jake Whitford had run batted in hits in the first inning.

The Bluebirds spend Spring Break in Myrtle Beach, S.C. They open play against Bishop McNamara (Maryland) on Monday at 8:30 p.m.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Carroll County bests Highlands baseball

Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

The Highlands Bluebirds baseball team fell behind on the road Friday and never recovered.

The end result was a 6-4 loss to the host Carroll County Panthers. The Panthers scored one in the first and exploded for five in the second in the win. Jake Lester took the pitching loss for the Bluebirds (3-5).

Highlands his the road again today for a 1:30 p.m. contest at Cincinnati Elder.

Thursday Sports Briefs

Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

The Highlands Bluebirds softball teams traveled to Union to face the cream of the crop in the 9th Region.

They fell 10-5 to the squad that has won seven of the previous eight region titles. Ryle won the state championship in 2006.

Ryle outhit Highlands just 10-9 and took advantage of seven Bluebird errors. Ryle led 5-0 after two innings.

Highlands does not play again until April 8. The Bluebirds face St. Henry at 5:30 p.m.

Covington Catholic baseball 6, NCC 1:

Newport Central Catholic fell to 0-4 with its second straight loss to the Colonels.

The game was part of the Reds Futures High School Showcase Showdown at Northern Kentucky University.

Neither team scored until the sixth inning when Covington Catholic (4-2) scored four to go up for good. The only run for NewCath came in the bottom of the sixth on a wild pitch.

Josh Cain (0-2) took the loss for the Thoroughbreds.

The Thoroughbreds travel to Beechwood on Monday. Game time is 5 p.m.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Dawn returns to NCC sidelines

Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

A little more than a year ago, Ron Dawn stepped down as Head Coach of the Newport Central Catholic girls basketball team.

Within a matter of days, the school promoted assistant George Stoll to the head position. Dawn, 57, found himself on the other end of the equation Wednesday as he accepted the offer to return to his old position.

Just a day after seven-year NewCath boys Head Coach Grant Brannen announced he’d taken the same position at Walton-Verona, Dawn accepted the offer to return to the sidelines. Dawn previously held that job between 1990 and 2002 before stepping down to watch his son Ronny play college basketball.

“As much as we hated to see Coach Brannen leave NCC, we are very fortunate that Ron Dawn has accepted the opportunity to become head coach,” said Rob Detzel, NewCath Director of Athletics. “Ron’s record speaks for itself. He is a fantastic coach and mentor and we feel honored that he will continue the great tradition that is NCC Basketball.”

Dawn graduated from NewCath in 1974 after success as a player and started his coaching career with the boys program in 1980. Dawn owns 403 career victories, which includes a stint as St. Henry boys head coach.

Dawn is the only coach in Kentucky to win a regional title for both the boys and girls programs at a school. He’s also the only coach to guide a boys and girls program at the same school to All “A” State Championships. Dawn helped the boys to the All “A” and 9th Region championship in 2000 before guiding the girls to an All “A” crown in 2010 and 9th Region title in 2011.

“I am really looking forward to coaching this group of young men,” Dawn said. “We will work hard to do our best to keep the longstanding tradition of NewCath basketball going strong.”

Dawn coached the girls between 2008 and 2012. The Thoroughbreds finished 91-24 with four 36th District titles in that span.

“Ron Dawn has had a tremendous impact on NCC,” said Carl Foster, NCC Principal. “From being a Hall of Fame player and coach, to a great teacher, a mentor to student-athletes and younger coaches, he has always handled himself with class. He is respected by his players, colleagues, and opposing coaches. He has accomplished things that no other coach in the state of Kentucky has accomplished. His love for the game and devotion to NCC basketball is commendable. We are fortunate to have Ron on the sidelines again.”

The Thoroughbreds return three starters from last season’s 30-3 squad that won the All “A” State Championship, 36th District and Ashland Invitational. They are rising senior Jake Schulte and rising juniors Zach Pangallo and Drew McDonald.

Wednesday Sports Briefs

Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

The Highlands Bluebirds baseball team dropped a close one 3-2 to the Campbell County Camels on Wednesday.

Highlands (3-4) saw Hector Molina and Quentin Murray record run batted in singles and Evan Allen go 2-for-3. Jake Liggett took the loss for the Bluebirds.

Highlands hits the road Friday to take on Carroll County. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

NCC softball 6, Beechwood 4:

The Thoroughbreds moved to 2-0 with the 9th Region win.

Taylor Burkhart picked up the win for Newport Central Catholic. She threw 5 and 1/3 innings of relief and struck out two.

NewCath trailed 4-1 before rallying in the sixth and scoring the game-winning runs in the seventh. Kristin Schrieber hit a two-run home run scoring Michaela Ware to lift the Thoroughbreds to victory.

The Thoroughbreds do not play again until Monday. The play host to Simon Kenton at 5:30 p.m. Their game against Newport on Monday was called off because of the cold.

More cancellations:

The Highlands Bluebirds softball team (3-2) did not get to face Dixie Heights for the second time this year. The Bluebirds also saw games against Simon Kenton on Monday and Conner on Tuesday cancelled because of inclement weather.

Highlands is scheduled to be back in action today at 5 p.m. against Ryle in Union.

Also, Tuesday’s baseball game between Newport Central Catholic and Ryle was called off because of the cold. NewCath faces CovCath at 2 p.m. at Northern Kentucky University today.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Brannen takes job at Walton-Verona

G. Michael Graham Photo. Grant Brannen (black sweatshirt) watches during team introductions at a game earlier this year. Brannen guided the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds basketball team for seven years before taking the same postion at Walton-Verona on Tuesday.
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

One of the hottest boys basketball head coaching jobs in Northern Kentucky came open Tuesday.

Veteran Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds Head Coach Grant Brannen announced he’s taking the same position at nearby Walton-Verona. This comes after the Thoroughbreds finished 30-3 this past season with Ashland Invitational, All “A” State and 36th District championships.

“I have been a part of the NewCath family since I was in the second grade,” Brannen, a 1998 NewCath grad, said. “For over 15 years, I loved every minute of teaching and coaching at my alma mater. Graduating, teaching, and coaching at NCC was a dream come true. This is a special place and will always be a part of my family’s life.”

NewCath finished 146-62 in Brannen’s seven seasons as head coach. The Thoroughbreds recorded six 36th District titles and four All “A” 9th Region titles during that span. NewCath finished 9th Region runner-up in 2011 to Dixie Heights and 2012 to Boone County. Eventual state quarterfinalist Covington Holmes bounced NewCath, 55-50 in the first round of the 9th Region Tournament this year.

Brannen said his daughter Caroline and son Jefferson “will eventually be Thoroughbreds.” Brannen’s wife, the former Anna McSorely, graduated from NewCath in 1999.

“Grant is an unbelievable coach, an even better teacher, and an even better person,”said Rob Detzel, NewCath Director of Athletics. “It is a sad day for NCC, as we are losing one of our great alums. We are, however, very happy for Coach Brannen and wish him nothing but the best at his new position.”

Brannen teaches Sociology, Geography, United State and World History in addition to Health and Physical Education at NewCath. He will also teach at Walton-Verona.

Brannen took over as head coach for Detzel in 2006 when Detzel took the AD position. Detzel succeeded former head coach Ron Dawn years before that.

“It is with mixed emotions that I inform all that Grant Brannen is not returning as a teacher and coach next year,” said Carl Foster, NCC Principal. “We are losing a great coach and more importantly, an excellent role model for our student-athletes. We thank him for his commitment to our students in the classroom and the success he has built with our basketball program.”

Two starters graduate from this year’s team in Michael Bueter and Nick Seibert. The Thoroughbreds graduate three other seniors in Jake Haas, Colin Dupont and Brennan Devoto.

But NewCath does return a lot of talent starting with rising 6-foot-8-inch senior Jake Schulte and rising juniors Zach Pangallo and 6-6 Drew McDonald. The Thoroughbreds also have some talent coming up like 6-4 rising sophomore Ben Weyer.

“I want to thank the coaching staff and all the young men who I had the honor of coaching,”Brannen said. “I am thankful for the experiences and memories we share.”

Brannen has a huge task in front of him at Walton-Verona. The Bearcats finished just 9-21 last year. They lost 53-47 to Simon Kenton in the 32nd District semifinals at Williamstown.

NewCath has begun the process of filling in the opening. A couple media outlets have reported that Ron Dawn has accepted the offer to return to his old position. Dawn guided the Thoroughbreds to the All “A” and 9th Region championships in 2000.

Dawn coached the NewCath girls program for four years between 2008 and 2012. He guided the Thoroughbreds to the All “A” championship in 2010 and the 9th Region crown in 2011.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Highlands downs HC, loses to Beechwood

G. Michael Graham Photo. Highlands pitches Mitch Jones (2) sets up for a pitch in Saturday's game against Covington Holy Cross while center fielder Hector Molina (10) watches. Jones struck out three in the 9-5 Highlands win and Molina went 2-for-3 with a walk, two runs batted in and two runs scored.

Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

The Highlands Bluebirds baseball team came through with clutch hits in one game and not the other Saturday at Highland Park.

That resulted in a 2-1 loss to the Beechwood Tigers followed by a 9-5 victory over the Covington Holy Cross Indians. The Bluebirds are 3-3 on the season.

Highlands received 23 at-bats in both games. The Bluebirds recorded four hits in the loss to Beechwood for a team batting average of .174 but came back to record eight hits against Holy Cross for a .348 clip.

“We hit the ball in the air too much in the first game,” said Jeremy Baioni, Highlands head coach. “We want to focus on hitting line drives and up the middle. We did a better job of that in the second game. We hit more balls on the barrel (of the bat), which is what we preach.”

Highlands leadoff hitter Hector Molina continued his amazing start to the season recording two hits in both games. He had half the Bluebird hits in the first game and scored two runs and had two runs batted in against the Indians going 4-for-7 in both games.

“I just swing hard and do my best to get on base,” Molina said. “We just have to hit the fastballs. We have a pretty good offensive team.”

Evan Allen and Quentin Murray added two hits and two RBI each against the Indians. Molina and Allen also scored twice.

The Bluebirds had their chances in the first game. They put runners in scoring position in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, but could not score against Beechwood winning pitcher Jason Suchanek.

In the fourth, Gabe Schultz reached on an error before moving to second on a D.J. Mills single. Schultz then moved to third when Jake Whitford reached first on a fielder’s choice forcing Mills out at second. Suchanek then got Luke Henigan to ground out at second to end the threat.

Evan Allen then reached on an error to start the fifth inning and Jake Lester bunted him to second. But Suchanek coxed Molina into flying out to left and Colin “Frog” Seidl into grounding out in front of the plate.

The Bluebirds scored their lone run in the bottom of the sixth. Schultz singled and stole second before he scored when Mills reached on an error.

Schultz took the loss for Highlands. He struck out two before Joey Martin relieved him in the third and finished the game striking out four.

Things started off bleak for Highlands in the second game. Holy Cross jumped out to a 4-0 lead before the Bluebirds scored five in the third sending 10 batters to the plate.

Molina walked then reached second and third on two wild pitches before Murray walked and stole second. That’s when Whitford grounded out to score Molina. Murray then scored on a wild pitch.

After Schultz scored on a Joseph Martin single, Trevor Kincaide relieved starting pitcher Blake Tiberi on the mound. Allen hit Kincaide’s first pitch over the right field wall for a two-run home run.

“I knew he wanted to get settled in so he was going to start off with a fastball,” Allen said. “I was sitting on it. I put it on the barrel to see what happened.”

Holy Cross did come back to tie the game in the fifth. But Highlands went ahead for good in the bottom of the inning. Molina singled in Mitch Guesenhues and Allen before Murray doubled home Jac Collinsworth and Molina.

“(Tiberi) throws the ball really hard,” Baioni said. “We don’t need to take hard swings. They need to be short and compact and our guys did that. Our guys were able to catch up to him.”

Mitch Jones picked up the win for Highlands pitching five innings. He struck out three before Jake Liggett threw two shutout innings in relief striking out three.

Kincaide took the loss for the Indians. Tiberi, a Louisville commit, led Holy Cross going 2-for-4 at the plate.

The Bluebirds return to action Wednesday. They travel to Campbell County for a 5 p.m. contest.

HHS softball goes 2-1 Saturday; NCC blasts Scott

Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

The Highlands Bluebirds softball team is 3-2 overall after winning two of its final three games Saturday in the Uncle Pete Invitational at Taylor Mill’s Softball City.

Highlands defeated the Nicholas County Lady Jackets, 5-1 in five innings to open the day before beating Bishop Brossart, 9-8 and losing 11-1 to Notre Dame. The Bluebirds saw several games cancelled before opening the season Friday.

Highlands batted .250 (6-for-24) in the win over Nicholas County. Ashley Grosser had a double and two runs batted in for the Bluebirds.

Pitcher Bailey Spencer again threw another good game for the Bluebirds. She struck out 12 and allowed just two hits and one earned run.

The night did not end well for Highlands against the Pandas. Shelby Graybill led the Bluebirds going 2-for-3 with a triple and run batted in.

Highlands is scheduled to face Simon Kenton in Fort Thomas at 5:30 p.m. today.

NCC Softball 16, Scott 0:
The Thoroughbreds opened the season with a three-inning win Saturday after several games were cancelled earlier in the week.

Sarah Neace threw a complete game on the mound for Newport Central Catholic. She struck out three.

Michaela Ware led NewCath going 3-for-4 with a double. Teammate Loren Zimmerman had a three-run home run and four runs batted in with Morgan Martini going 2-for-3 with two RBI and Taylor Burkhart adding two more RBI.

NewCath is scheduled to travel to Newport for a 5 p.m. contest today.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Season-Opening Split

G. Michael Graham Photo. Highlands pitcher Bailey Spencer sets up to throw in Friday's game against Conner at Softball City in Taylor Mill. Spencer struck out five against Dixie Heights and three against Conner in the Uncle Pete Invitational.

Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

TAYLOR MILL – The Highlands Bluebirds softball team found out immediately where it stood among the 9th Region contenders Friday.

The Bluebirds ended up splitting those contests beating Dixie Heights, 3-2 in six innings before losing to Conner by the same score in five innings. Both games had a time limit of an hour and 15 minutes.

The Bluebirds had several games cancelled before finally opening the season. These marked the first two games of the Uncle Pete Invitational at Softball City.

“We’re young, but we knew if we could play error-free, we could play with these guys,” said Rob Coffey, Highlands head coach. “We spoke with them all winter about the things we need to change the program. Some are the physical and mental errors that we made. We’ve really done a good job from now to the first scrimmage cleaning those up. Some cost us (against Conner).”

Freshman pitcher Bailey Spencer took the decisions in both games. The first game marked her first appearance against her former teammates. She helped Dixie Heights make the 9th Region semifinals last year.

“It was really hard going in there,” Spencer said. “But once I got focused, it was like another game. I didn’t think about it much.”

Spencer struck out five against the Lady Colonels and allowed just three hits. Spencer struck out three and allowed four hits against the Lady Cougars.

Spencer’s dad Matt is a 1984 Highlands graduate that played safety on the 1982 Highlands state championship football team and helped the Bluebirds to a Class AA state cross country championship in 1983. The family wanted her to attend Highlands because of the school’s academic reputation.

“She’s a teen-aged girl,” Coffey said of Spencer. “She had some moments the last couple days where she was apprehensive about having to face her ex-teammates. She loves that whole coaching staff and the kids on that team. We talked multiple times and she said she was ready to go. She went in and did a great job.”

Highlands fell behind 2-0 to Dixie Heights before rallying in the fifth. KC Broering tripled and Haley Coffey drew a walk. Payton Leighty then grounded out scoring Broering and moving Haley Coffey to second. Whitney Quillen then stepped to the plate and doubled in Haley Coffey to tie the game.

“I think we’re coming together as a team and are ready to compete with anybody,” Quillen said. “I’d been struggling and that hit boosted my confidence. It felt great to help out the team.”

Highlands scored the game-winning run in sixth. Ashley Grosser started out on second per late-inning, tie-breaking rules and scored when Kendall Turner hit into a fielder’s choice.

Highlands belted six hits against Dixie Heights. Shelby Graybill and Grosser had doubles for the Bluebirds.

The Bluebirds took a 2-1 lead in the fifth against Conner. Haley Coffey and Broering scored on errors before the Lady Cougars came back and won the game in the bottom of the inning.

Jessie Roark pitched a good game for Conner. She allowed just two hits.

Highlands continues the tournament today. The Bluebirds take on Nicholas County at 9 a.m. then play another game in the afternoon.

Baseball Roundup: Bluebirds dominate W-V, NCC falls

Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

The Highlands Bluebirds baseball team handled Walton-Verona, 8-0 in its home opener Friday.

The domination for Highlands (2-2) started on the mound. Joey Cochran threw a complete-game, two-hit shutout with six strikeouts.

“Joey Cochran pitched great,” said Jeremy Baioni, Highlands head coach. “That’s always key. He threw strikes and let our defense make plays behind him, and we did make plays behind him.”

Senior leadoff hitter Hector Molina continued his solid start to the season. He had four hits and scored four runs.

“Hector’s been playing really well,” Baioni said. “I think he’s had 10 or 12 hits at this point. He gets on base and wreaks havoc. He really gets us going.”

Quentin Murray had a clutch two-run single in the second to push the Bluebird lead to 5-0. Highlands then received consecutive RBI doubles from Gabe Schultz and D.J. Mills in the bottom of the sixth to finish off the Highlands scoring.

The Bluebirds play two more games today back at Highland Park. The Bluebirds face Beechwood at Noon and Covington Holy Cross at 3 p.m.

Covington Catholic baseball 13, Newport Central Catholic 3:

The Thoroughbreds (0-3) continued their early-season struggles with a loss to the Colonels in the All-Catholic Tournament.

CovCath pulled away in the top of the seventh with nine runs to break open a tight 4-3 advantage. The Colonels outhit the Thoroughbreds, 12-5.

Nick Davis recorded the win for CovCath. He pitched into the fifth and struck out four.

The Colonels saw four players recorded two hits each. They were David Zalla, Matt Litzler, Max Boyle and Noah Galvin. Litzler had a double.

The Thoroughbreds had just one extra-base hit. That came in the form of an Alex Grau double.

Connor Bartels took the loss for NewCath. He pitched four innings and struck out six.
NewCath takes on Ryle at Morscher Field on Tuesday at 5 p.m.

Friday, March 22, 2013

More Games Cancelled

Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

Temperatures in the 20s forced more cancellations of softball games Thursday.

Highlands was to travel to Dayton and Newport Central Catholic was to play host to Notre Dame. Neither team has played a game this season.

Highlands is scheduled to play in the Uncle Pete Invitational at Taylor Mill’s Softball City starting today. The Bluebirds face Dixie Heights at 7:30 p.m. and Conner at 9 p.m.

Newport Central Catholic is scheduled to play at in-town rival Newport on Monday. Game time is 5 p.m.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

More local games cancelled

Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

Mother Nature once again did not allow a number of games to be played Wednesday.

The Highlands baseball team had a game scheduled at Conner. The next scheduled contest for the 1-2 Bluebirds is Friday at 5 p.m. against Walton-Verona.

The Newport Central Catholic softball team had a game scheduled at Scott and the baseball team was to play host to Woodford County. The softball team faces Notre Dame at 5 p.m. today and the baseball team does not play again until April 26 at home against Ryle at 5 p.m.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

NewCath baseball, softball hopes to take steps forward

G. Michael Graham Photo. Newport Central Catholic pitcher Nick Seibert fires to the plate in a recent scrimmage while first baseman Jake Pangallo gets in position. The Thoroughbreds have won the last two 9th Region titles.

Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

It is a story of a team with unfinished business.

The Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds baseball team owns a stellar 51-27-1 record over the last two seasons with consecutive 9th Region crowns. NewCath would not mind three-peating as region champs then going another step if not a few more further than what they’ve gone in the state tournament.

The Thoroughbreds have lost in the state quarterfinals the past two years. They dropped a tough 1-0 decision to eventual state runner-up Henderson County in nine innings last year after dropping a 10-4 decision to Louisville Pleasure Ridge Park in the same round in 2011.

Vetetan NewCath Head Coach Jeff Schulkens and staff welcome back seven starters last year’s squad that finished 25-17-1 overall. Schulkens is entering his 18th year as head coach.

“We started conditioning on Oct. 15 and we’ve been going three days a week until we started practice in February,” Schulkens said. “The kids have a goal. They want to win region again and compete for a state title. It’s always tough. We have good teams. We have to be playing our best in May to win another region title.”

The seven returning starters for the Thoroughbreds are seniors. The returning leading hitters are pitcher/outfielder Josh Cain and infielder Pete Collopy. Cain hit .370 last year with three home runs and Collopy batted about .315-.320.

“We’ve put a big emphasis on senior leadership,” Collopy said. “We have a lot of people coming back so we’re really confident. Everyone has an equal shot at playing time regardless if they’re a senior or not.”

The other returning infielders are Colin DuPont, Alex Grau and Connor Bartels. Dom Pangallo returns in the outfield and Kevin Hoffstedder returns to play catcher. Grau can also catch and Bartels could also play the outfield or pitch.

The Thoroughbreds graduated three starters from last year in Brady Hightchew, Nick Woltermann and Andy Miller. Hightchew took his talents to Shawnee State in Portsmouth, Ohio. Hightchew often led off with Woltermann batting third and Miller fifth.

The Thoroughbreds have a number of other players that could also make a difference. The other two seniors are infielder Michael Bueter and outfielder Nick Seibert.

“On any given day, anyone can win,” Schulkens said. “We’ve talked from day one about getting better every day. We also talked about doing all the little things right. We have the talent to have a good year. We have to do all the little things right to have a great year.”

The roster also consists of six juniors. They are infielder Jake Yeager, outfielder Kole Zenni, infielder John Caudill, outfielder Tommy Donnelly, infielder Mitch Pangallo and infielder/outfielder Jake Pangallo.

A pair of sophomores rounds out the 17-player roster. They are infielder Brandon Gray and infielder Zach Pangallo.

Pitching depth is needed to take teams deep into the tournament. The Thoroughbreds have 10 players that could contribute in that department this year. They are Cain, Bartels, Seibert, Mitch Pangallo, Bueter, Yeager, Gray, Caudill, Donnelly and Zach Pangallo.

“It’s early in the season. I’m just trying to throw strikes,” Cain said. “We’re not throwing many off-speed pitches or curves yet. Coach (Schulkens) usually calls the pitches. We have a lot of guys that threw decent. I think our pitching can be scary good once we’re all on top of our potential this year.”

The Thoroughbreds opened the season with losses to Lexington Catholic and Louisville Trinity on Saturday. They face Woodford County at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Freedom Field.

NCC Softball looks to surprise:

The Thoroughbreds enter their eighth season as a program fresh off their fourth district title.

NewCath finished 20-14 last year and won the 36th District crown. The Thoroughbreds then turned some heads by knocking off Notre Dame, 9-4 for their first 9th Region win since 2008 and just their second region win in school history.

“Last year, we weren’t expected to win anything and ended up winning 20 games,” said Denny Barnes, NewCath head coach. “This is one of the funnest teams I’ve had to coach and the reason for that is no drama. Coaching girls, you normally have some drama. This team is ready to play.”

NewCath graduated three seniors from that team. They were center fielder Paige Immgard, right fielder Meghan Milfard and first baseman Rachel Hardesty.

Barnes welcomes back six starters from that team. Senior Christine Enzweller is the lone returning starting outfielder in left field. The only other senior listed on the roster is outfielder Madison Ballard.

The preseason has seen a lot of cold days meaning a lot of practices have been indoors. That has caused opponents to cancel many games early.

“We can’t wait to get outside,” Enzweller said. “It’s hard practicing (indoors) because we can’t get in the dirt.”

Four sophomores return after starting as freshmen last year in catcher Kristin Schreiber, shortstop Michaela Ware, third baseman Loren Zimmerman and second baseman Casey Kohls. Kohls batted .439 last year to lead the team and Ware hit .345.

“Even though we’re a young team, we have the potential to beat any team,” Burkhart said. “We lost part of our outfield from last year so we have to adjust to that. We also don’t have a left-handed batter this year so we have to adjust to that more.”

Junior Taylor Burkhart and sophomore Sarah Neace could share the pitching load. Neace finished last year with a record of 11-4.

The roster consists of 14 players total. Juniors Molly Mertle and Amanda Schabell could battle for playing time in the infield and sophomore Morgan Martini could battle for playing time in the outfield. Freshmen battling to contribute are infielders Aliva Gross, Alexa Kehoe and Amber Griese.

A sign of the growth of the program comes with the start of a freshman team. Barnes said that team has 18 players this year.

NewCath is scheduled to open the season today at 5 p.m. at Bellevue.

Monday, March 18, 2013

More postponements

Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

Another cold winter day meant no action once again for the Highlands Bluebirds softball team.

The Bluebirds were scheduled to take on Ludlow to open the season Monday then travel to Cooper on Tuesday. Both games have been postponed. The next scheduled game for Highlands is Thursday at Dayton at 5 p.m.

The Highlands baseball team was to face Holmes on Tuesday. That game will also not be played. The Bluebirds travel to Conner for a 5 p.m. game today.

The Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds softball team was also scheduled to open against Bellevue. That game was also postponed. NewCath is scheduled to travel to Scott for a 5 p.m. contest today.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Highlands goes 1-2 at Lawrence County

Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

The Highlands Bluebirds baseball team started the season 1-2 with three games at Lawrence County on Saturday.

Highlands opened the season with a 3-2 loss in extra innings to the host Bulldogs. Jake Heck (0-1) took the loss for the Bluebirds.

Jake Whitford and Jake Lester turned in multi-hit games for Highlands. They both finished 2-for-3 at the plate.

Brandon Stevens picked up the win for Lawrence County. Ryan Kingsmore led the Bulldogs at the plate going 3-for-3 with a walk, two stolen bases and two runs scored. Teammate Adam Cavins followed going 2-for-3 with a walk.

Highlands turned around and beat the Capital Cougars of Charleston, West Virginia, 13-6. Ben Vermeil (1-0) picked up the win for the Bluebirds.

Lester finished 2-for-2 with two walks reaching in all four plate appearances for Highlands. D.J. Mills followed going 2-for-3 with a double, walk and three RBI with Hector Molina going 2-for-4. Colin “Frog” Seidl added two walks, three runs and two stolen bases for Highlands with Quentin Murray and Whitford scoring two runs each. Whitford added two walks and Gabe Schultz had a triple.

Highlands concluded the day with a 3-1 loss to the Prestonsburg Blackcats. Kenny Ball (0-1) took the loss for the Bluebirds.

Highlands returns to action Monday at 5 p.m. The Bluebirds face the Holmes Bulldogs to open 9th Region action.

NewCath baseball drops two in Lexington:

The Thoroughbreds opened their season Saturday with two lopsided losses at Lexington Catholic All-Catholic Tournament.

The host Knights handed the Thoroughbreds a 9-0 defeat to open the season. NewCath recorded just one hit by Josh Cain.

On the other side, the Knights had just four hits but took advantage of seven NewCath walks and two errors. They scored six earned runs.

Connor Bartels took the loss for the Thoroughbreds. He allowed struck out three and allowed just one hit and two earned runs in three innings.

The Thoroughbreds then lost 16-6 to the Trinity Shamrocks. Cain took the loss for NewCath. He pitched three innings allowing just one earned run to go with four walks and one strikeout.

The game actually stayed close until the sixth inning. NewCath trailed just 7-6 entering the fifth when the Shamrocks scored four runs before adding six more in the sixth.

Cain, Mitch Pangallo and Zach Pangallo all had two hits each for the Thoroughbreds. Cain scored twice and had two RBI.

Nolan May recorded the win for Trinity. Justin Howard, Tyler Marshall, Hill Connor, Tyler Hunt, Bobby Graven and Brady Pfaadt had two hits each for the Shamrocks. The outhit the Thoroughbreds, 15-9.

NewCath plays host to Woodford County on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Freedom Park.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Reflecting on the Winter


Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

As we transition into the spring, I feel it’s time to reflect on the winter.

The season-ending defeats for the four basketball teams were difficult. But the players on the Highlands and Newport Central Catholic basketball teams can hopefully look back on the season one day and reflect on many good times.

The Highlands girls had a very successful season going 26-8 before losing in the 9th Region championship to Notre Dame. The 26 wins are the most since Jaime Walz-Richey became head coach in 2002. It also marked their first appearance in the title game since 2002.

The six seniors played great roles in leading Highlands back to that point and will be missed. They are Leah Schaefer, Jesse “Dirt” Daley, Emilie Parton, Ava Abner, Vanessa Fisse and Kelsey Clark.

Highlands can also reflect on its first District 36 crown since 2008. Schaefer let out a memorable scream after the Bluebirds pounded Newport to win that title.

The Bluebirds do return a good nucleus for next season. They return freshman starters Brianna Adler and Haley Coffey. Players like Tomi Blanton, Whitney Quillen, Alex Combs, McKenzie Leigh and Lydia Graves should be ready to contribute more once next winter comes around.

Highlands also did win the Conner Christmas Holiday Tournament. The Bluebirds downed Pleasure Ridge Park to capture the crown.

The NewCath boys put together a phenomenal season at 30-3. That included separate 12 and 18-game winning streaks.

The Thoroughbreds won another 36th District crown before falling to 9th Region champion and eventual state quarterfinalist Holmes in the first round of the region tournament. Holmes lost to eventual state champion Madison Central. NewCath also won the Ashland Invitational Tournament.

Even though the Kentucky High School Athletic Association may not recognize it, the Thoroughbreds are state champions in my book with the All “A” crown. This is a reason I wish the state would go to classes like every surrounding state does. But that is a topic for another time.

NewCath will return starters Drew McDonald, Jake Schulte and Zach Pangallo next year. The Thoroughbreds will still be tall with McDonald and Schulte at 6-foot-6-inches and 6-8. Ben Weyer will be seasoned at 6-4. If NewCath develops a stronger outside game, another great season could be in store.

NewCath does graduate Michael Bueter, Nick Seibert, Colin Dupont, Brennan Devoto and Jake Haas. But other players will be ready to step in.

The NewCath girls also had a good season finishing 20-10. That is pretty good for a young team and a young head coach in George Stoll. NewCath finished All “A” runner-up to Owensboro Catholic. They lost to Highlands in the district semifinals as a result of the blind draw.

Like their male counterparts, they also need to shoot better from outside. But players like Stephanie Lewis, Ansley Davenport and Michaela Ware have shown they can do it. That will free things up down low for Nikki Kiernan and Alexus Mayes.

NewCath graduates just one senior in Jillian Hoover. She unfortunately played just once because of an Anterior Cruciated Ligament injury.

The Highlands boys improved from the previous year at 12-16. But the Bluebirds were playing their best basketball of the season at the end and gave a great effort in the district semifinal loss to NewCath.

Gone are four seniors in Luke Turner, Bailey Witte, Karl Hinkel and Jake Gronotte. On Monday, head coach Mike Flynn also announced he will not be back after four seasons.

The new head coach will have some talent to work with. The Bluebirds return Nick True and Drew Houliston along with promising players like Parker Harris and Jensen Feggins.

Debut Delayed

Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

The Highlands Bluebirds softball team was supposed to play Campbell County at home to open the season Wednesday.

Excessive cold and snow forced a cancellation of the game. No make-up date has been scheduled at this time.

Thus, the debut of new head coach Rob Coffey has been delayed until Monday. Highlands plays host to Ludlow at 5 p.m.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Working on the Coach's Vision

G. Michael Graham Photo. The Highlands Bluebirds softball team scrimmages Saturday at the high school. The Bluebirds graduated just one player from last year's team and have a new head coach in Rob Coffey.

Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

If the players take the enthusiasm their head coach has displayed since taking the job in September, great things could be in store for the Highlands Bluebirds softball program.

Rob Coffey took the job in the fall and began working on those big visions. He wants the Bluebirds to not only compete for the 36th District and 9th Region titles, but also state championships.

“The attitude and excitement around the program has been outstanding,” Coffey said. “The players are focused and absorbing everything we are teaching them. They are attending every practice with a business-like approach. The parents are extremely supportive and we have an absolute great group of families from top to bottom. It’s very exciting to be a part of right now.”

The development of fastpitch youth softball leagues in Cambpell County is starting to catch up to Boone County. Coffey wants to see more girls play outside the season. Two years ago, only two players did that. But this year, eight of the nine starters own at least two years of experience playing competitive summer softball and a number of the younger players are playing on competitive teams as well. Coffey said 20-25 players have been working out with the team and a personal trainer in the offseason.

The Bluebirds graduated just one player off last year’s team that finished 10-19 overall losing 8-2 to Newport Central Catholic in the 36th District semifinals in shortstop/second baseman Brooke Hollingsworth. She hit .404 on the season.

This year’s team has no seniors. Unlike what many may think, Coffey said that’s a good thing.

“It (lets) us create a two-year plan with the girls we currently have and we’re not rushing to turn the ship,” Coffey said. “We feel we have the potential to be very competitive this year, but also understand that it’s a journey and we are working toward it. All the girls have bought into the theory.”

Highlands batted .297 as a team last year. Coffey wants to see that number get into the .350 to .400 range. Freshman third baseman Shelby Graybill is the leading returning hitter. Graybill batted .427 with four home runs, 12 doubles, two triples with 21 runs scored and 10 walks.

The pitching staff received a boost a few weeks ago when freshman Bailey Spencer transferred in from Dixie Heights. Spencer and sophomore Payton Leighty will handle the pitching duties. Dixie Heights finished 20-14 last year and drove to the 9th Region semifinals.

Leighty was 6-12 with a 5.49 earned-run average, 50 strikeout and 48 walks. Leighty split the duties with Karly Hamberg last year. Hamberg decided not to come out this year. Coffey wants the ERAs to dip into the 2s.

“I think Bailey is going to be a good addition to the team,” Leighty said. “She’s really good with her speed and movement. I’m so different from her. We can switch it up and be one of the better teams in Northern Kentucky.”

The three returning juniors are Kendall Turner (outfield/first base), Ashley Grosser (center field/second base) and KC Broering (first base/outfield). Grosser batted .338 last year.

Highlands also lists three sophomores and four freshmen on the roster. After Leighty, the other two sophomores are Whitney Quillen (catcher/infielder) and Emily Johncox (outfield). Quillen batted .309 last year. The other freshmen after Graybill and Spencer are Haley Coffey (shortstop) and Brennah Dutcher (infield).

Highlands hopes to have a solid defense this year. Coach Coffey hopes for a solid hitting team. But he said the Bluebirds may do some small ball this year if that’s what it takes to win games.

“I think it’s coming along really well. We have a couple good hitters,” Graybill said. “We also have some good small-ball people. I can tell you we’ve worked a lot on fundamentals. There have been practices where we can’t come on the football field. We stay inside the whole two hours. We also have older girls working with younger girls.”

Defensively, Coach Coffey wants the girls to eliminate mental mistakes like not looking a runner back to second on a ground ball to third before throwing to first base. Good teams do not make those mistakes.

Kentucky lets seventh and eighth-graders play on the varsity level. One eighth-grader in Taylor Baioni (infielder/outfielder) and four seventh-graders in Miranda Mason (pitcher/infielder), Josie Daley (catcher/infielder), Alexis Conner (infielder) and Brooke Dill (infielder) are aiming to contribute this year.

The 36th District has had the blind draw in the past. The district will seed teams like the volleyball teams did in the fall.

The Bluebirds face Campbell County to open the season Wednesday. Game time is 5 p.m. in Fort Thomas.