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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Monday Highlands Round-Up: Baseball Edges Conner

Softball, Boys Tennis Post Victories

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands seventh grader Payton Brown made her debut in left field for the Bluebirds on Monday. Brown had a bases-loaded walk and scored a run.

The Highlands Bluebirds baseball team found itself in a tough spot in the top of the seventh in the season opener Monday.

Highlands led 7-6. But the host Conner Cougars had the tying run at third and the game-winning run at first with two out having already scored three runs.

But junior pitcher Drew Hack coaxed a playable foul ball near the visiting first base dugout. Senior Isaiah Lampkin dove to the ground to make the final out to preserve the victory by that score.

"It was a really intense situation. I knew I had to step up and do what I needed to do for the team," Lampkin said. "The wind was moving the ball every which way. But I think I'm built for those moments. I just came in and made the play."

Highlands came into the game with just one player with extensive varsity experience. That is senior Jacob Gulley.

"We used nearly every game on our roster and we needed them," said Jeremy Baioni, Highlands Head Coach. "Guys went into the game and made some big plays defensively. Some guys got some big hits some base running. We want to create depth and create some competitiveness."

Highlands senior right-hander Owen Carris started on the mound for the Bluebirds and picked up the win pitching three innings. Junior Ryne Wiseman then pitched the fourth and fifth into the sixth inning before Hack took over.

Both teams had six hits. Senior Jason Noe and junior Jack Schneider scored two runs each. Senior Braden Baioni had three runs batted in.

"It comes down to throwing strikes and making plays," Coach Baioni said about putting teams away better. "We had a chance to walk out of there with a pretty good win. It's still a great win. If you make a play on a fly ball, don't hit a batter, don't walk a batter, suddenly you're walking out with a four-run win. But you can't stall. You have to get all three outs and you expect a Conner team to fight until the last out. We lost a little momentum there in the last inning. We got it back and made a great play to end the game. That's going to pay off in the end, too."

Highlands built a 5-2 lead after three innings. Tied at two in the top of the third, Gulley scored on a fielder's choice and junior Jack Schneider scored on a wild pitch. Schneider then hit a two-run double in the seventh to give the Bluebirds a 7-3 advantage.

"It's good to get a (varsity) feel," Carris said. "It was a little rough in the first. But the second and third inning, I felt a little more confident. The issue in the first inning was command. But once I got it going, I was able to put them away."

The Bluebirds play host to Louisville Trinity (1-0) on Tuesday at Highland Park. Game time is 5 p.m.

Highlands 19, Lloyd Memorial:

Highlands took advantage of 13 walks in the three-inning lopsided 9th Region victory to open the season. Lloyd Memorial played without its top pitcher.

Highlands Head Coach Milt Horner and staff emptied the bench trying to keep the score respectable. Horner said he told Lloyd Memorial Head Coach Jordan Gentry and the umpires he'd ask the runner to leave early to move the game along.

"It's good to get the first game out of the way," Horner said. "I think for the most part in the first inning, we were pretty disciplined at the plate. It got hard to stay disciplined after that."

The Bluebirds scored 14 earned runs on six hits. Junior Anna Greenwell led the Bluebirds with two hits including a double to go with four runs batted in, two runs scored and two walks. Freshman Michelle Barth had a two-run double on her 15th birthday.

Seniors Brianna Tharps and Caroline Class. Tharps scored three runs to go with a steal, walk and RBI. Class had two walks, two runs, one RBI and one steal.

Senior Julianna Shonkwiler received her first varsity action walking twice including once with the bases loaded for an RBI. She also scored once. Shonkwiler is in her second year from Highlands after moving in from Las Vegas as part of a military family.

"It felt nice after 22 months just playing a game and being able to hit," Shonkwiler said. "It feels like you have to start over again like riding a bike."

Several seventh graders in Payton Brown, Kaitlyn Dixon, Camryn Markus and Morgan Pompilio also had their varsity debuts. Markus scored three times on two walks. Dixon had a two-run single and scored a run with Pompilio recording a hit. Brown walked with the bases loaded for an RBI and scored a run.

"It feels pretty good getting to know all the girls and knowing they have my back," Brown said. "Our chemistry is pretty good. We all seem to be friends with each other even the older girls with the younger girls."

Sophomore Kennedy Baioni pitched the first two innings to pick up the win. She struck out four on 26 pitches. Sophomore Carly Cramer pitched the third inning striking out two and walking one on 17 pitches.

The duo also had big games at the plate. Cramer scored twice and had a bases-loaded RBI walk. Baioni had two runs batted in.

"I thought Kennedy did a pretty good job. She'd been focusing on throwing strikes," Horner said. "I was happy with that."

Highlands travels to Cincinnati on Tuesday to face a Girls Greater Catholic League opponent in the Urusuline Academy Lions (3-0). Game time is 4:30 p.m. at the Blue Ash Sports Center.

Tennis, Boys:
Highlands 5, Cooper 0:

The Bluebirds moved to 6-0 with the win over the Jaguars. Eli Hornsby, Jacob Clifton and Elliott Gillum had singles wins for Highlands. The first doubles team of Quinton Wehby and Jackson Lang along with the second doubles team of James Beasey and Mac Valentine also picked up victories.

"There are a lot of boys that play in the offseason and it's basically the same starting line-up from two years ago," said Kris Laskey, Highlands Head Coach. "It's exciting to finally get this season in. So far, we're looking very good."

Highlands plays Campbell County on Thursday at Tower Park. Game time is 3:45 p.m.

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