High School Sports

Highlanders off to surprising fast start under new coach

Heathwood Hall is off to a 3-0 start this season, including a 2-0 record in SCISA Region 2-3A baseball. It’s a start that first-year Highlanders coach Ashley Farr did not anticipate.

“We've started out 3-0 and just beat Hammond at Hammond for the first time in a long time,” said Farr who is taking over for Charlie Assey. “All this is being done even though one of our best players, Davis Ray, hurt his arm in the first game. We also have another kid with pneumonia. We really shouldn't be doing this right now with all of the things that we're dealing with as a team, but we've come together so well. The kids are just responding.”

Farr, who played for Assey at Brookland-Cayce, has a team with just five starters returning from last season’s 15-9 outfit that finished third behind Ben Lippen and Augusta Christian in the roughest region in SCISA. But so far, the Highlanders have exceeding preseason expectations.

Heathwood Hall made a statement last Friday night in the cold, wet and dreary conditions at Hammond’s Folsom Field when it handed the fast-starting Skyhawks their first setback of the season in dramatic fashion, 7-6. The Highlanders staged a five-run rally in the top of the seventh inning to take a 7-5 lead. Hammond cut the lead to 7-6 by a run in the bottom of the seventh, but Melton Bristow settled the issue with a strikeout for the final out with Skyhawks runners on second and third base. Bristow went the distance to improved to 2-0. He had 11 strikeouts and allowed right hits. His defensive support was shoddy – all six Hammond runs were unearned. Bristow also led HH’s seven-hit attack with three safeties (two doubles and a triple) and drove in two runs.

Prior to stunning Hammond, the Highlanders downed Cardinal Newman and Lower Richland. Ray got the start in the season and region opener vs. the Cardinals on March 10, but lasted only two innings and has not seen action since. Melton got the win by closing out the game with three scoreless, hitless innings in relief, facing only 10 CN batters. The Highlanders took the lead for good with a four-run rally in the top of the sixth inning. Bristow was the offensive leader again with two hits, two runs scored and one RBI. HH had 10 hits in all, but Bristow was the only man with multiple hits. Chris Barton had the other extra base rap – a triple. Two days later, the Highlanders spotted visiting Lower Richand a 3-0 lead in the first inning, but had a 7-3 edge entering the third. The red-hot Bristow was at it again by going 3-for-5 with a double, one run scored and one RBI Thorn Cathcart was 2-for-3 with three runs and two RBIs. Starting pitcher Chris Leventis lasted only 1/3 of an inning, but Whit Hensley came in from the bullpen and restored order. Hensley got the win, tossing 5.2 innings of shutout ball with nine strikeouts. He allowed three hits and issued two walks.

Seniors Bristow and Ray, juniors Walker Pruett, Morgan Whalen and Walker Soujourner are the returning starters. Bristow led the team with a .389 batting average with 20 runs, 21 RBIs and a 1.006 OPS, and was 5-3 with a 3.47 ERA on the hill. Ray batted .311 with 25 runs, 10 RBIs and 16 stolen bases and was 5-4 with a 3.90 ERA and 58 Ks in 46.2 innings of work on the mound. Pruett hit .323 as a part-time starter. Whalen finished with a .268 batting average, and Soujourner checked out with a .271 average.

Heathwood Hall hosts defending region and state champion Ben Lippen on Tuesday. The Falcons (3-2 overall, 1-1 in region games) are rebuilding under first-year coach Kurt Seibert.