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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Highlands 2020 Senior Baseball Players Play One Game

Schwalbach Pitches, Homers in Senior Game Win

Highlands 2020 Senior baseball players played a special game at Highland Hills Park on Monday night.

By G. Michael Graham

The six Highlands baseball seniors may not have had a season because of Coronavirus 2019 in the spring but Highlands Head Coach Jeremy Baioni and the Northern Kentucky coaches put together two games at Highland Park to allow the area seniors to play one game and have an honorary Senior Day.

The Highlands players partook in the game Monday. They walked an hour before the game with their families. The six Highlands baseball seniors included Luke Weidner, Collin Hollingsworth, Brennan Haigis, Mason Schwalbach, Nate Gesenhues and Ethan Kavanagh.

All but one participated in a Senior Day game at Highland Park on Monday.

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Highlands then played with seniors from Bellevue, Ryle and Lloyd Memorial winning the game 1-0 over players from Newport Central Catholic, Villa Madonna, Dayton, Covington Catholic, Ludlow and Dixie Heights.

The other senior game takes place Tuesday. Baioni said 70 kids signed up.

"These guys have gone through so much," Bainoi said. "For so many of them, their season was cut short. Being a spring season, there's nothing else to look forward to. School is out. They just didn't get that last opportunity to put on that jersey. It was important for the coaches to be able to put something together. I couldn't be more excited for the turn-out."

The game saw a rain delay after the fourth inning. Only five players had not batted from the other team entering the top of the fifth. The game ended after they batted.

Highlands senior Mason Schwalbach provided the game's lone offense with home run to center field in the bottom of the fourth. Schwalbach also pitched the first inning recording four strikeouts.

"It was actually a running joke me asking Coach Baioni if I could pitch in this game because I'm usually catching for the pitchers," Schwalbach said. "It was cool they let me do that so I just went out and did as best as I could and made the most fun out of it. Things just happened to go my way. We wanted to go out in a good way and I think I did that."

Highlands senior Luke Weidner pitched the top of the third retiring the side. He also saw action on the infield. Weidner also lined out to center in the bottom of the second with the bases loaded.

"I was excited about (the pitching in the third)," Weidner said. "I was excited about my deep fly ball. If I'd have gotten a little more on top of it, it would have been a hit. You have to approach it like any other at-bat. But overall, I'm happy with (the game). It was a good way to end the season."

Three other seniors received an at-bat and played in the field. They are Brennan Haigis, Collin Hollingsworth and Nate Gesenhues. The Highlands baseball field has an infield turf installed after the 2019 season.

"It was really nice that they put this all together for us to come out and play one more time with all of our buddies," Haigis said. "We have probably one of the top facilities in Kentucky. Knowing we couldn't play on it kind of stunk (in the spring)."

Gesenhues helped the Highlands soccer team to a consecutive region championship last fall and state quarterfinal appearance. Hollingsworth, Schwalbach and Haigis played football in the fall.

"It was really nice to get to experience (the turf)," Gesenhues said. "Every preseason, we always work out on the football field and we'll get ground balls up there so it felt a lot like that. It's different when it's in the shape of a baseball field."

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Baioni is aware that events like this may have some people concerned about Coronavirus 2019. But Baioni and the coaches put out guidelines for the game. Baioni and staff wore face masks.

"Everything that went out to the coaches to be sent to the players and parents, we were encouraging social distancing and wearing masks," Baioni said. "We had the cones for them to stand six feet apart. We did some things that weren't traditional for our Senior Day because they weren't really social distancing. They were standing right next to each other getting pictures so we modified that a little bit. It was important for everyone to understand because we want to stay healthy. We want everybody to be able to go out and do things so we don't have to go through this again. It was really cool seeing a lot of people were adhering to it and we're blessed to have a facility that allows for it."

Another senior in Ethan Kavanagh appeared at the game but did not play. He'll continue his baseball career at the University of Kentucky and Hollingsworth will play baseball at the University of Alabama-Huntsville.

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