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By Drew Truitt
Sports Editor 

Highlanders Overpower Hardee Wildcats 6-2


Last updated 3/13/2019 at 9:10am

Drew Truitt

Lake Wales Highlanders Varsity baseball took a turn for the better Monday night at Highlander Hill after splitting two games last Thursday and Friday with rival non-conference foe Bartow Yellow Jackets.

Monday night's contest results were welcome news to Coach Don Bridges and his hard working Assistant Coaches Steven Wilmoth, Lorenzo Parker, Mike Gerlosky and Levi Borders managing a tricky game with two similar strength teams and Lake Wales needing to avenge an earlier loss to the Wildcats in the preseason.

The final score of 6-2 appears closer than it was with the Highlanders maintaining control over their opponent from the onset. At the top of the first inning the Wildcats lead-off hitter ran out an infield single to start the game with a hit for the Wildcats, but first baseman #7 Tommy Ricketts handled the pick-off throw from starting pitcher #16 Clint Lerch, and tagged the runner out. One down.

Somehow Lake Wales overcame two errors in the first frame to escape without having given up a run. The team surely is aware that Coach Bridges preaches that errors, or lack of them, is the key to success. They righted the ship and got down to doing what they do best: playing together and having fun.

In the second Ricketts, a junior, led off with a single to right and sophomore second baseman #8 Clay Jacobs went to second on an error. That left men on second and third, no outs. Outfielder #21 Blake Bradley lasered a single down the middle on an 0-2 pitch to score both runners. Lake Wales was up 2-0 after two.

On defense, the right-handed Lerch brought his A-game to the mound and by keeping the ball low and in the strike zone there were few free passes to first base. The majority of the game was spent fielding and handling balls in the infield. Hardee smashed a few extra base hits, but they were few and far between, but no homers for the visiting Wildcats.

In the top of the fourth a throwing error cost the Highlanders a run when Ricketts was pulled off the base by a high throw, and the Wildcats were finally on the scoreboard.

In the bottom of the fourth #2 Abdiel Flores ripped a towering shot over the right center fence to provide a cushion and a 3-1 lead over the handcuffed Hardee Wildcats who did not bring their bats or their normally tough defense to the fray. Always playing catch-up they tried too hard and their frustration was palpable.

In the fifth inning Highlanders sophomore starting catcher #25 Shalor O'Bryant led off with a hard-earned walk, and senior center fielder #9 Ben Gilbert's triple advanced O'Bryant to score another run padding their lead. After a few more hits Maxpreps Player of the Game Flores hit a deep sacrifice fly to put Lake Wales up, 5-1.

Drew Truitt

In the final frame Lerch was relieved by closing pitcher #5 Lefty Landen Atkins who finished out the game without allowing a run and putting a victory in the books and in the win column leading the Highlanders to a respectable 5-3 start to their season.

This just in!

Lake Wales Highlanders score 6 in the top of the first and hold on to win 13-9 at Lake Region Thunder, Tues. Mar. 12. #8 Clay Jacobs was awarded the Maxpreps Player of the Game.

Next up: Fri., Mar. 15, Auburndale Bloodhounds, 7:30pm, Highlander Hill


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