South Jersey Times Baseball Notebook: Highland Bonds Traveling South
The Highlands baseball team finally hit the road – and DJ Gore couldn’t be happier with the results.
Now in his 21st season as head coach, Gore has taken the Tartans on a long journey over spring break for just about every one of them. COVID ended the streak two years ago and last spring the school suspended for safety reasons, but last week Highland returned to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for the 11th time to participate at The Ripken Experience.
The Tartans went 3-2 against opponents South Carolina, Ohio and Massachusetts.
“Some of our kids (in the past) had to do it for four years,” Gore said. “But we haven’t been able to go there for the last two years, so it was like year one, starting over for everyone. It was really cool to see this group of kids go there and experience it. It was a good trip.”
Highland started with a 6-3 victory over Wilson Hall (South Carolina), a team that Gore says has already played 25 games this season and is preparing for its state tournament. The Tartans lost a 3-2 game against North Royalton (Ohio) before rebounding later in the day with a 10-5 win over Boardman (Ohio).
They then faced Canfield (Ohio), a team with seven Division 1 commitments on its pitching squad, and lost 10-5. In their last game, they outscored St. Mary’s (Massachusetts), which won back-to-back state titles, 4-1.
“We’ve been there 11 years and it was one of the best competitions we’ve seen,” Gore said. “I think with other (tournaments) canceled and some schools reluctant to send their teams to Florida on a plane, teams were able to charter a bus and that’s why you saw competition resume. We played back to back with Cherry Hill West and they had two tight games that we got to watch. Overall it was just a good experience for both of us.”
The resort features nine replicas of historic Major League baseball diamonds. Highland competed at Ebbets Field, Crosley Field and Griffith Stadium and trained at the Polo Grounds.
“Some of them have really weird dimensions because they’re set up to look like those ballparks of old,” Gore said. “There are photos of the stadiums behind the pull-out area and the kids can take a moment to look up and see where they are playing. There’s definitely a story element that’s really cool. They pay attention to it. »
Besides the baseball aspect, Gore enjoys going with his team because of the bonding opportunities it presents. Many gamer families also attend and make it a vacation; Gore joked that he was jealous of some of the dads, who stayed over the weekend to play golf.
He feels his team has grown closer after spending so much time together.
“That’s a huge reason we’re doing it,” he said. “We stay in these really nice condos and they have to eat meals together, whether it’s breakfast in the morning or a team dinner at the restaurant in the evening. Mainly during the day, you are at the ballpark; we were able to pick up JV games when we were there so two of the days we were literally at the resort from 11am to 7pm. You can’t help being together and I think that’s a huge plus.
Highland is now 7-2 overall, including a 4-0 start here in South Jersey, despite exiting all-region players Adam Aquilino and Dan Robeson from the 14-6 squad. ‘last year. Junior outfielder Robert Carfagno, who hit .358 with 16 walks as a sophomore, is once again one of the Tartans’ best hitters. His contributions to South Carolina included a three-run home run and a two-run double.
“He’s a big guy for us,” Gore said. “We thought we knew what we had when he came to first grade and he gradually improved from year to year. He worked a lot during the winter, went to the weight room and did what he wanted. he had to do to improve. We are seeing the benefits now.
Junior Vinny Davis, who contributed to Gloucester Catholic as a second year, was a key addition after his transfer. He’s one of Highland’s best pitchers and a consistent bat who plays shortstop or third when not on the mound.
“He knows these guys from growing up with the majority of them and he fits right in,” Gore said. “They didn’t know how to take him at first because obviously he wasn’t in the original group that was here, but he adapted and found his role. He does his thing and it all takes off.
Senior Owen Davenport joins Davis atop the pitching team. He pitched a full game in Highland’s first win at Myrtle Beach, stoking an eight.
“They kind of compete with each other,” Gore said. “From Owen to Vinny, every time they take the ball, one outplays the other. But Owen has been our most steady arm right now. He did a fantastic job and the cool thing about him is that he carried it over to the plate. We sort of thought he’d be a PO and throw or spell guys when we needed him, but he’s been one of the best hitters on our roster. We played him at second, he played a game at third in Myrtle Beach. He’s kind of been our utility guy and he does a fantastic job.
Highland, which shared the Tri-County Conference Liberty Division title with Delsea last year, hosts the Crusaders on Wednesday in the first of two meetings this year. Gore is eager to see how South Carolina’s experience pays off against Delsea and the rest of the Tartans’ opponents.
“You always look forward to playing a good competition,” he said. “We talked to the guys when we were in Myrtle Beach about how we could pick up five games against anybody there and probably go 5-0 if that’s what we wanted to do. But we didn’t want to do that, we wanted to play great competition and hopefully prepare for our return home with Delsea still on the schedule, Gloucester Catholic, Kingsway, Clearview. These are teams that we are going to have to see and we have to be ready. You have to play your best baseball against them and that’s why we went there to face those great teams.
SURPRISE SURPRISES: Heading into the first Steal Your Base Classic on Saturday in Williamstown, Timber Creek was probably the biggest underdog in a tournament also featuring Kingsway and Washington Township with host Braves.
Still, it was the Chargers who claimed the trophy, courtesy of a 7-1 win over Washington Township in Game 1 and a 4-2 upset over Kingsway in the championship game. Timber Creek had a great pitch in both games, as Luke Gardner pitched a full game against the Minutemen, allowing an unearned run on five hits. Victor Oquendo also went the distance in the final, limiting the Dragons to two ruins, one earned, on three hits.
The Chargers have won three of their last four games and are now 4-5 this season.
The Steal Your Base Classic has raised over $1,000 for Autism Awareness.
SWINGING A HOT BAT: Schalick senior Jarrett Pokrovsky, the reigning South Jersey Times Player of the Year, had six hits in two games Saturday at the veterans tournament hosted by Haddon Heights. The Cougars lost to Cumberland 15-7 but bounced back to beat Collingswood 13-2.
Pokrovsky hit his fifth homer of the season in the win over Collingswood and is averaging .727 in his last three games. He has 13 hits, nine walks, 15 RBIs and 16 runs on the year.
ON A ROLL: Vineland have won five of their last six games and are 5-3 in Monday’s home game against Millville. Senior Alex Rodriguez has a six-game hitting streak and a .370 batting average with five walks for the Fighting Clan.
Millville have lost five of their last six games and would like to get back on track against their biggest rival.
STATS AND THINGS: Clayton has won three straight and is averaging 12 runs in that span. Isaac Taylor is hitting .458 with four doubles and 11 stolen bases this season for the Clippers. … Evan Biddle has struck safely in six straight games for Salem, including a pair of three-hit efforts. The junior is averaging .478 on the season. … The second annual thank you, a tournament started by Gloucester Catholic assistant coach Bill Gore to honor teachers and first responders, returns on Friday and runs until Sunday. … The deadline for the Diamond Classic is Saturday, with matches starting next week.
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