A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Prep Sports Notebook: Highlands looking to carry on local success in baseball state semifinal games

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

Northern Kentucky high school baseball teams have a 4-1 record in state tournament semifinal games over the last four years and Highlands will try to add to that success at 8:30 p.m. Friday when the Bluebirds take on McCracken County at Whitaker Bank Ball Park in Lexington.

Drew Rom, right, gets a high-five from a teammate during the 9th Region championship game. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

The starting pitcher for Highlands (28-13) is expected to be Drew Rom, who was named Mr. Kentucky Baseball by the state coaches association earlier this week. The senior left-hander has a 9-6 record and 2.27 ERA after posting wins in the 9th Region championship game and first round of the state tournament. He has 129 strikeouts and 23 walks in 74 innings this spring.

McCracken County (34-8) has been a pitcher’s nightmare this season. The Mustangs won their first two state tournament games by scores of 14-3 and 16-0.  They have scored 10 or more runs in 20 of their 34 wins.

In his team’s first two state tournament games, McCracken County lead-off hitter Rook Ellington was 5-for-7 at the plate with six RBI and four runs scored. The University of Kentucky recruit was voted first-team all-state by the state coaches association.

McCracken County has been in the state tournament five consecutive years as the 1st Region champion. The Mustangs were eliminated in the semifinals the last two years.

This is the fourth straight year that Highlands has represented the 9th Region in the season finale. The Bluebirds were state runner-up in 2015, lost in the first round of the 2016 tournament and went 1-1 last year.

The other local baseball teams that won state semifinal games over the last four years were Simon Kenton in 2014 and 2017 and Campbell County in 2016. Scott lost in the 2015 state semifinals.

Branson, Krohman selected first-team all-state by softball coaches

Ryle senior shortstop Maclai Branson and Simon Kenton freshman pitcher Macy Krohman were among the Class 3A first-team all-state selections by the Kentucky Softball Coaches Association.

Maclai Branson

Both players finished the regular season among the leading hitters in the state. Branson went on to lead the Ryle team to its first 9th Region championship since 2012. At the state tournament, she was 4-for-7 with two home runs and four RBI in the final two games of her high school career.

McKinley Miller of Campbell County was a third-team all-state selection in Class 3A and Rachel Gabbard of Highlands was named to the third team in Class 2A.

The local all-state players in Class 1A were Kacy Zimmerman of Newport Central Catholic to the second team and Olivia Palasek of Calvary Christian to the third team.

Palasek was named the Midway University/KHSAA Student-Athlete of the Year for softball. This award is based on athletic and academic achievement as well as community service and leadership.

Held was double-figure scorer in both Ky-Indiana all-star games

Lexy Held of Cooper was a double-figure scorer in both of the Kentucky-Indiana All-Stars girls basketball games last weekend.

Held scored 10 points with three assists in Kentucky’s 92-87 win on Friday at Bellarmine College in Louisville. In Saturday’s game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, she had 15 points and two steals in an 83-70 loss to Indiana.

Anna Clephane of Scott also played for the Kentucky girls team. She had two points in the first game and did not score in the second game.

McKell Burries of Newport played on the Kentucky boys team that also split its two-game weekend series against Indiana’s top seniors. Burries did not score in his team’s 100-89 win on Friday, but he had 13 points, one steal and one block in Saturday’s 109-81 loss.

Adam Kunkel of Cooper was selected to play on the Kentucky boys team, but his name did not appear in the final statistics posted after either game.

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