A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Major college recruits will lead Highlands baseball team’s bid for fourth consecutive 9th Region title

By Evan Merrill
NKyTribune contributor

The Highlands baseball team will make a bid for its fourth consecutive 9th Region championship this spring with three major college recruits on the roster, but the Bluebirds will have mostly first-year starters in the lineup.

“You know it’s so hard to predict high school baseball, (or) baseball in general,” said coach Jeremy Baioni. “I do think we have the pieces in place that could really make a run at another regional championship and potentially a state championship. But the 9th Region is so good, so well-balanced, there’s a lot of good teams in the region.”

Highlands pitcher Drew Rom is a Michigan recruit who was invited to a showcase held for major league scouts. (File photo by Bob Jackson)

The Bluebirds made it to the state championship game in 2015. They were ousted in the first round of the 2016 state tournament and in second round last year when they finished with a 25-12 record.

Although Baioni lost eight players to graduation last spring, he has two notable returnees among this year’s senior class. Drew Rom is a left-handed pitcher who committed to Michigan and Hunter Dreves is a right-handed pitcher who signed with Tennessee.

The team’s other major college recruit is sophomore second baseman Ethan Kavanaugh, who has already accepted a scholarship offer from Kentucky. Last season, he was the Bluebirds’ lead-off hitter as a freshman and batted .406 (39 of 96) with 33 runs scored.

“Those guys are really gifted athletes. They work their tails off, work hard at their craft,” Baioni said. “We feel we have quite a few other guys that are going to go on and play college baseball, but it is nice to have those guys that are extremely talented and have a really good work ethic.”

Rom posted a 9-3 record with 117 strikeouts last season. He was named Class A Player of the Year by local coaches and second-team all-state by the state coaches association. In February, he was invited to the Super 60 Pro Showcase where major league baseball scouts evaluate draft-eligible high school prospects from several states each year.

Dreves also ranks among the top high school hurlers in the state of Kentucky, according to Baioni. So pitching will be a strongpoint for the Bluebirds, just as it was on their three previous regional championship teams.

But the other seniors who saw a good amount of playing time last year are outfielder Joe Steiden and infielder Sam Hennigan. They both had more than 50 at-bats and Hennigan was the starting third baseman in both of the team’s state tournament games.

The Bluebirds seem to play their best baseball late in the season. If this year’s team comes together like Baioni hopes it will, he expects them to be a contender for another 9th Region title and a return trip to the state tournament.

“We really stress to them playing for each other,” Baioni said. “If we can separate a little bit of personal goals and personal agendas, put them to the side and play for the guy next to us, then I really like our chances.”

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment