The Highlands Bluebirds softball team (1-1) appeared headed for a run-rule victory against the Campbell County Camels (3-2) at Winkler Field, building a 12-0 lead after three innings.
But the Camels avoided it and made a game of it shutting out the Bluebirds after the third inning. Highlands still held on for a 12-8 victory in the first of two scheduled meetings between the two after Campbell County won both last year.
“It is always good to get that first win,” said Milt Horner, Highlands head coach. “We lost some games to the weather. We still have some rust. If we make some defensive plays, we’re out of it and it’s over. We’ll learn from it. I don’t think the first three innings could have gone any better for us from an offensive standpoint.”
Highlands collected 10 hits in the win with three extra-base hits and four players recording multi-hit games. Senior Kennedy Baioni picked up the win striking out seven, walking six and allowing just two hits and went 2-for-3 at the plate with a home run, double, five runs batted in and scored once.
“Kennedy’s not totally stretched out yet,” Horner said. “Later in the season, Kennedy finishes innings without any trouble. We’re learning what girls can do and build on that.”
Freshman Payton Brown went 2-for-4 with a double, two RBI, two stolen bases and two runs scored. Senior Carly Cramer went 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored with junior Bailey Markus going 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Seventh-grade pinch runner Layla Zepf scored twice.
Markus made a web gem to start the second inning. Sophomore left fielder Jayci Kremer hit a low line drive that Markus dove to make the catch. Baioni wound up retiring the side in that inning.
“I was thinking how it can affect the team because we were playing on a high note,” Markus said. “I wanted to keep the momentum for our team. We came out, scored more runs and we all stayed together.”
The first five batters reached for Highlands to lead off the bottom of the first. Baioni blasted a three-run home run to left to complete the five-run inning. The Bluebirds scored three in the second and four more in the third.
“We started off strong. But with this being our second game of the season, we’re not used to consecutive ball play,” Baioni said. “But when we settle in, we’ll get the outs.”
Campbell County tallied 12 hits with four of them going for extra bases and four players recording multi-hit games. Freshman Hope Hamilton went 2-for-3 with a double, two walks, one RBI and one run scored. Freshman second baseman Sam Perry also went 2-for-3 with one run scored.
“I was really proud of the girls for not giving up,” said Sandi Kitchen, Campbell County head coach. “It’s an early start trying to get going and I feel like giving up that much, sometimes you have a tendency to dwindle and not come back. (But) they did. Our hitters really battled through everything.”
Seniors Paige Stewart and Emily Nadeau both went 2-for-5. Nadeau scored once. Senior catcher Izzy Whisman doubled in two and scored once and Kremer doubled in one and scored once. Eighth grade center fielder Josie Feebeck added two runs.
The Camels scored once more in the sixth and four times in the seventh bringing the tying run to the plate. But freshman relief pitcher Kaitlyn Dixon got Neadeau to pop out to Cramer at first base in foul territory to end the game. Dixon made the last two outs in the seventh after Cramer took over in the sixth and pitched one out in the seventh.
Hamilton (0-1) made her second start of the season pitching into the third inning. But Stewart took over and kept the Camels in the game retiring the last nine batters she faced over the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
“Hope is young and we wanted to see how she would fair against this team,” Kitchen said. “Once Paige settled down, she did fine. We just needed to have a different look out there to change up the hitters. I look forward to the rest of the season. We have an outstanding club and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
Highlands returns to action Thursday at Lloyd Memorial (1-2) at 5 p.m. Campbell County has two games scheduled Saturday at Ryle against the host Raiders (1-1) at 11 a.m., then against Franklin County (2-1) at 1 p.m.
Other Softball Scores
Ryle 10, Beechwood 0
Carroll County 9, Walton-Verona 2
Cooper 18, Grant County 5 (5 innings)
Holmes 14, Bellevue 9
Bishop Brossart 18, Ludlow 3 (3 innings)
Robertson County 37, Newport 36
Scott 19, St. Henry 0 (3 innings)
Conner 13, Highlands 9
Tied at nine in the bottom of the seventh, senior catcher Logan Tucker stepped to the plate with bases loaded needing a hit or the game would end in a tie. He hit a grand slam home run to center field to lift the Cougars (2-0) to the Ninth Region win over the visiting Bluebirds (0-3).
“I just kept it simple,” Tucker said. “I just thought about hitting the ball hard. I cleared my mind and made sure I did what I had to do.”
Conner hit nearly .500 on the day with 14 hits in 32 official at-bats. Tucker went 2-for-5 with four RBI and one run scored. Senior Brayden Stidham went 3-for-4 with a double and scored three times with senior center fielder Ayden Lohr going 2-for-5 with a double and run scored and junior Rex Richter going 2-for-4 with a double, RBI and two runs scored. Senior Jackson Bucks went 2-for-4 with two RBI and one run scored and senior Brody Mangold added a double.
Senior Zander Allen pitched the last two innings to pick up the win for Conner. Senior Jeffery Vest (1-0) pitched the first three innings and junior Aaron Wichmann pitched the fourth and fifth.
Highlands had just five hits, three of them home runs. But the Bluebirds scored seven unearned runs off five Conner errors to have a chance at the end. Senior John Donelan hit a two-run home run in the top of the seventh to put the Bluebirds up 9-8. Junior Luke Schneider homered, driving in three and scored twice with junior Brody Benke adding a solo shot.
“It was an ugly win. But it’s a win,” said Brad Arlinghaus, Conner head coach. “We dug ourselves a hole by bad defense and walks. I have 13 seniors this year. We’ll go as they go. Everyone on the team one through 16 stepped up and just kept fighting back. It was a gritty win. I’m proud of them.”
Conner takes on Scott (1-2) back in Hebron on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Highlands plays host to Beechwood (2-0) at 5 p.m.
Ryle 8, Campbell County 4
The Raiders (4-0) won another big early-season game at home against the Camels (1-1).
Ryle batted .448 (13 for 29) overall. Junior Xavier Owens led the way going 3-for-3 with two RBI and one run scored. Junior Tate Cordrey went 2-for-3 with two doubles, two RBI and scored twice. Junior Caleb Mann and sophomore Josh Caudill each went 2-for-3 and senior Roman Furuta went 2-for-4, scoring twice.
Senior Vincent Witte (1-0) picked up the win striking out eight. Juniors Aiden Williford and Maverick Rabe pitched in relief with Rabe picking up his second save of the season.
Campbell County batted .259 (7 for 27) with senior Jake Gross recording a triple and two RBI. Senior Evan Clark went 2-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored with sophomore Carson Clark finished 2-for-3 with one run scored.
Junior Chris Bramley (0-1) pitched the first four innings for Campbell County. Junior Connor Weinel and senior Braden Kramer pitched one inning in relief.
Ryle has a game scheduled at Louisville Trinity (5-0) on Saturday at 3 p.m. Campbell County plays at Beechwood on Friday at 5 p.m.
Other Baseball Scores
Scott 9, Bellevue 6
Bishop Brossart 12, Boone County 2 (6 innings)
Bourbon County 11, Holy Cross 3
Ludlow 10, Calvary Christian 9 (6 innings)
Dixie Heights 3, Cooper 1
Simon Kenton 10, St. Henry 0 (5 innings)