|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands junior Hunter Dreves fires to the plate in a recent game.|
That is why the Bluebirds (4-3 overall) played three games in the Kentucky/Tennessee Border Battle in Hendersonville (Tennessee) just north of Nashville on Friday and Saturday. The Bluebirds saw a ton of talent in the three losses to Tennessee opponents Hendersonville, Memphis Christian Brothers and Mount Juliet.
"The one thing Tennessee did was expose what you can or can't do against good teams," Baioni said. "Those teams down there didn't give you much. We're going to play a lot of good teams on our schedule this year. We want to make sure we're prepared because you can't go over every scenario in practice. So if we see a scenario in a game we need to work on, we try to work on that in practice so we're more prepared the next time out."
Christian Brothers and Mount Juliet shut out the Bluebirds with talented pitching. Christian Brothers had a pitcher throw in the 90 miles per hour range and Mount Juliet had a left-handed pitcher with movement.
"The velocity gives you less time to make a decision," Baioni said. "We've learned that we need to get more aggressive at the plate. We sit and take a fastball for a strike. Now we're guessing. We're in a count where they can throw a breaking ball, a change-up or something with a little more movement and we get ourselves in a hole."
Baioni admitted the weather has not helped Highlands get into a rhythm offensively. The Bluebirds started their game against Bishop Brossart on Wednesday. But the teams could only play three innings with the Bluebirds leading 2-1 after three before the rain came forcing the game to be suspended.
Highlands put up 16 hits in the 13-0 blanking of West Carter at Simon Kenton and 10 hits in the 12-0 win at Walton-Verona to start the season. Trey Bowden, Grady Cramer, Ethan Kavanagh, Ryan Adkins, Trey Bowden and Drew Rom all had doubles in the run-ruling of West Carter.
Highlands also has two one-run wins over Boone County (10-9) and Simon Kenton (3-2). Brady Gosney hit a clutch two-run home run against Simon Kenton and Bryce Ziegler had a double. Joe Steiden had a double and Bowden triples in the comeback win against Boone County.
"We have a bunch of guys who are really engaged," Baioni said. "They do a good job hitting from the dugout, watching from the dugout and learning from their mistakes. We have a great feeder program with our freshman and JV teams. They get coached really well. Guys really learn how to engage and be mentally prepared in games. It just trickles up to the varsity level."
Steiden said the Bluebirds also learned some lessons defensively in the trip to Tennessee. Highlands did rally to tie the game against Hendersonville before losing 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh.
"We need to be more aware of situations," Steiden said. "From the outfield perspective where I play, we need to hit our cutoffs more and have better throws. That doesn't allow a runner to take an extra base."
Senior Ethan Doty and Rom came in leading the pitching staff. But the Bluebirds have shown their depth there with the likes of Cramer, Spencer Dee, Hunter Dreves and Ryan Adkins.
"We're just trying to go out there, do our best and throw strikes," Dee said. "That's what it's all about. We have to hit spots of course. (Coach Baioni) tells us to go out there and throw hard. We just want to challenge hitters and see what they can do."
Highlands continues in the Doc Morris Invitational against Cincinnati Anderson at Florence Freedom Park. Game time is 6 p.m.