|Senior Bluebirds pitcher Mitch Jones signed a letter of intent last week./Mark Collier|
by G. Michael Graham
FTM Sports Reporter
Coming off a wonderful season, the Highlands Bluebirds baseball team expects some seniors to sign to play at the next level.
Senior pitcher Mitch Jones recently made his decision.
He will attend Kentucky Wesleyan College Panthers in Owensboro. The Panthers of NCAA Division II compete in Great Midwest Athletic Conference with schools from Tennessee, Ohio and West Virginia. Kentucky Wesleyan finished 31-16 overall last year and 17-7 in conference play. The Panthers went 1-2 in the conference tournament.
“I like how they’re starting to build a program,” Jones said. “This recruiting class is very good. They have kids who were offered by Kentucky and Louisville, but opted to go to Kentucky Wesleyan. It’s a very good school and I am excited on being a part of it.”
The Bluebirds finished 22-18 last year. They won a third straight 36th District championship and lost 3-0 in the 9th Region finals to Conner at Florence Freedom Park. Highlands returns 13 seniors from that team.
“These guys are really stressed about it,” said Jeremy Baioni, Highlands Head Coach. “We have a couple more guys looking to sign. Mitch wanted to get it over with so he could focus on his senior season. Some of these other guys want to make sure they make the right choice.”
The senior class has been to the region title game twice since entering high school. The Bluebirds lost 3-1 to the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds in the 2011 region title game.
“The guys are motivated, especially the seniors,” Baioni said. “They’ve been with the program for six years. They really want to go out on top. They’re really working hard in the weight room. Getting the field house will be huge for us. We can get in there and get in some swings and get in the bullpen.”
Jones did not pitch much last year because of injuries. But he made a debut in the loss to NewCath as a freshman.
“Mitchell goes out there on the mound and he can be goofy at times,” Baioni said. “In his first performance as a freshman, he was real tight. He wasn’t smiling or laughing. I talked to him after the game. He was so nervous. It was funny to me because he’s never been nervous. He hasn’t been nervous since. He was absolutely on and did a great job in the loss.”
Jones has played travel baseball since he was eight years old. He plans to enter his second season with the Cincinnati Flames this year.
The Bluebirds will be loaded with pitching arms this season. Seniors Joseph Martin, Lou Bunning, Jacob Noe and junior Ricky Raisor are looking to give the Bluebirds depth there.
Jones wants to provide leadership. He also wants to add velocity to his pitches.
“It’s incredible. I love being a part of this school,” Jones said. “I love the fact that we focus not just on football, but every single sport. This community is one now. I love it.”
Practice begins Feb. 15. The first game for the Bluebirds is March 23 at Beechwood. Game time is 5 p.m.
Here are some more photos from Mitch's signing: