HS Baseball: Highlanders Handle Business in Lopsided Affair Against New Caney

By: Jake Wilson
| Published 03/16/2024


THE WOODLANDS, TX -- Despite a gloomy environment and residual rain, The Woodlands Highlanders thrashed the New Caney Eagles 9-1 to get the team back on track with a district win.

The first inning was a poor indication of the future explosion of production from the Highlanders. A stand on defense only allowed a single Eagle runner on the bags before he was left stranded at third, and a three up, three down from The Woodlands indicated that the game would be a slow burner.

But a streak of four consecutive three ups and downs against New Caney hoisted by Highlander pitcher Erich Daigle provided The Woodlands batters with enough space to ramp up their hitting steadily.

In an exclusive interview with The Woodlands Online Sports, Highlander Head Coach Ron Eastman spoke on the importance of defense throughout the early district run.

“We’ve been a really good team defensively and pitching-wise this year,” said Eastman. “It’s almost to the point where our pitching and defense has dictated the tempo, and we’re just looking at our offense to pick things up.”

Things began to pick up for the Highlanders in the bottom of the second inning. Following a shutout top of the inning from Daigle, teammate Ryan Brautigam got aboard with a lead-off single before stealing second to enter scoring position. A crack of the bat from Izzy Vega to rightfield provided enough time for Brautigam to round the bases and slide into home for the first run of the day and a 1-0 Highlander lead.

“If you look at the last week or two, we have not been very offensive,” said Eastman. “We felt it was very important to get on the board early, and getting that lead early always helps settle our pitcher and defense down.”

Daigle needed little to settle into his already established groove on the mound. Another flawless outing in the top of the third put the Highlanders in the driver's seat with a chance to accelerate ahead if their bats connected.

A running issue for New Caney reared its ugly head, with multiple Woodlands runners getting on base via walks. A total of 11 walks would be thrown by the Eagle pitchers, with two crucial examples in the bottom of the third, situating the Highlanders with easy scores.

One walk loaded the bags with one out, where a line drive from Declan Magee brought in a score to make the game 2-0. A wild throw from the mound would bring in a second runner, and a third would advance to home on a walk.

Now, with a 4-0 advantage, the Highlanders had a chance to deal significant damage in the fourth inning. Another series of three straight New Caney batters generating zero runs led to The Woodlands producing their most offensive inning of the game.

A lead-off walk for the Highlanders was the final straw for the Eagle coaching staff, and they decided to pull starter Kaden Hubbard in favor of Hayden Sanders.

Sanders’ tenure on the mound started roughly when two Woodlands runners got to second and third with none out. Another powerful swing from Brautigam brought both runners in for a two-run RBI that continued to put pressure on New Caney.

No stops were made as the inning continued, with another runner scoring for the Highlanders on a wild pitch from Sanders. Another pitching change saw Kaeden Pate to the mound for the Eagles in the hope that the team may escape with minimal damage.

“We were patient and looking for the pitches we were going to get,” said Eastman. “We talked about not necessarily looking for pitches we wanted but what we were going to get.”

Instead of the minimal damage the team was hoping for, the Highlanders patiently piled onto their already dominant lead. An RBI from an infield error and another score from a wild pitch saw the dust settle on a tumultuous fourth inning for New Caney, with the team down 9-0.

A scoreless fifth inning saw the least amount of offense from both teams since the first inning, but a brief glimmer of fight shined through for the Eagles in the top of the sixth.

With two outs, New Caney Eagle Kaison Lipsey hit a single to get a promising start to a score on board. A follow-up walk and single loaded the bases for the first time for the Eagles, where an RBI from Hunter Taylor got New Caney on the board.

Despite their brief glimpse at scoring, the effort came too late. A clean-up job from Highlander pitcher Caleb Barry-Smith ended the day with a dominant 9-1 Woodlands win.

Recent weather conditions have forced several games to be rescheduled across 13-6A, with the Highlanders needing to prepare for an atypical matchup on Monday.

“Our pitch has been solid so far, and that’s what we’re going to have to do is pitch and play defense,” said Eastman. “We’ll have to find a way to score two, three, or more runs against good pitching from Oak Ridge.”

The Highlanders will aim to continue their positive momentum in Monday’s matchup against the War Eagles, while New Caney will be back against the Highlanders on Tuesday.

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