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Prep Sports Notebook: Region champion Highlands has several candidates for softball all-star team

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

When high school softball coaches turn in their ballots for Northern Kentucky all-star teams on Tuesday, there could be several Highlands players among the Division II selections.

Highlands won its second consecutive 9th Region championship on Sunday and returns to the state tournament with a 27-8 record that includes a 20-1 mark against teams in Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties.

Highlands catcher Michelle Barth

Highlands freshman pitcher Kaitlyn Dixon

The Bluebirds have five players batting .420 or better, including junior catcher Michelle Barth, who was named most valuable player in the 9th Region tournament after delivering the game-winning hit in a her team’s 4-2 victory over Dixie Heights in the championship game.

Kaitlyn Dixon was the winning pitcher in the title game as well as a 2-1 victory over Cooper in the region semifinals. Her season record now stands at 12-2.

In those two region playoff games, the freshman allowed just one earned run and had 22 strikeouts. She’ll enter the state tournament with a 1.01 ERA and 149 strikeouts in 117 innings.

Top leading hitter for the Bluebirds is senior Kennedy Baioni with a .452 batting average. The teammates behinds her in that category are Bailey Markus (.445), Payton Brown (.440), Barth (.432) and Carley Cramer (.422).

In the opening round of the state tournament, Highlands will take on 15th Region champion Johnson Central at 11 a.m. Thursday at the University of Kentucky’s John Cropp Stadium.

Last year, Highlands lost to Warren Central, 8-0, in the first round. The last 9th Region softball team to win a state tournament game was Notre Dame in 2017.

Baseball coaches announce Player of the Year award-winners

Beechwood senior outfielder Cameron Boyd was named Player of the Year in the 9th Region and on the Division AA all-star team by members of the Northern Kentucky Baseball Coaches Association.

Cameron Boyd

Going into this week’s state tournament, Boyd leads the state in home runs (12) and total hits (63), ranks fourth in runs batted in (50) and slugging percentage (0.984) and ranks sixth in runs scored (53).

He led the 9th Region in all of those categories along with batting average. He’s hitting .516 (63 of 122) that’s currently 14th in statewide statistics.

Covington Catholic senior catcher Jonathan Fitz was named Player of the Year in Division A. He finished the season with a .511 batting average (47 of 92) that ranks 16th in the state and 19 doubles that ranks third.

Coach of the Year award-winners were Troy Roberts of Simon Kenton in Division A and Jeremy Baioni of Highlands in Division AA. Rob Wermeling of Holy Cross was named 9th Region Coach of the Year.

Beechwood is the only local team in the state baseball tournament that starts Thursday at Counter Clocks Field in Lexington. The Tigers (27-8) will take on Owensboro Apollo (23-12) in a first-round game set for 5 p.m.

DH –
Chris Henson (Boone County). 1B – Dakota Brown (Simon Kenton). 2B – Roman Furuta (Ryle). SS – Aydan Hamilton (Campbell County). 3B – Cory Henson (Conner). Catcher – Jonathan Fitz (CovCath). Outfielders – Charlie Dieruf (CovCath), Mark Nowak (Cooper), Ayden Lohr (Conner). Pitchers – Brody Mangold (Conner), Dylan McIntyre (Ryle).
Player of the Year – Jonathan Fitz (CovCath).
Coach of the Year – Troy Roberts (Simon Kenton).

DH – Mason Preston (Beechwood). 1B – Robbie Verst (Brossart). 2B – Nazario Pangallo (Beechwood). SS – Jack Hendrix (Highlands). 3B – Jason Dorning (Holy Cross). Catcher – Aiden Dickerson (Bellevue). Outfielders – Cameron Boyd (Beechwood), Evan Moore (Brossart), Matt Resing (St.  Henry). Pitchers – Evan Moore (Brossart), Matthew Kappes (Beechwood).
Player of the Year – Cameron Boyd (Beechwood).
Coach of the Year – Jeremy Baioni (Highlands).

Player of the Year –
Cameron Boyd (Beechwood).
Coach of the Year – Rob Wermeling (Holy Cross).
Asst Coach of the Year – Nate Snyder, (Beechwood).

Junior Showcase – Chris Henson (Boone County), Charlie Dieruf (CovCath). Alternate – Rex Richter (Conner).
Sophomore Showcase – Dylan McIntyre (Ryle), Jackson Reardon (CovCath). Alternate – Ian Mann (NewCath).

Tennis players among top seeds going into state tournament

The state tennis tournament begins Tuesday with Covington Latin senior Sara Watanabe seeded No. 1 in girls singles and Covington Catholic sophomores Kalei Christensen and Alex Yeager seeded No. 1 in boys doubles.

This is the third consecutive year that Watanabe has gone to the state tournament as the 9th Region champion in girls singles. She made it to the state semifinals the last two years and lost a third-set tiebreaker both times that kept her from reaching the championship final.

Christensen and Yeager will be making their state tournament debut as a CovCath doubles team. Two years ago, they earned a state tournament berth when they were eighth-graders playing for Holy Cross.

CovCath junior Brady Hussey is the No. 2 seed in boys singles behind Evan Duggal of Lexington Henry Clay. This is Hussey’s third consecutive trip to the state tournment. He reached the final four last year.

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