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Highland sloppy but successful against Randolph Macon baseball team

Wednesday, Apr. 16 | By Jeff Malmgren
Randolph Macon Academy put 13 runners on base Wednesday.

That's right where the Highland Hawks wanted them, apparently.

In an otherwise sloppy baseball game, the Hawks played their best when Randolph Macon threatened to score. As a result, the Yellow Jackets stranded six runners and had three others thrown out on the base paths, allowing Highland to win, 9-4, at home in Warrenton.

"I guess we feel pressure to get the outs, so we tighten up our defense with people on base," said Hawks third baseman Mark Terrell, whose team maintained its lead in the Delaney Athletic Conference with a 4-0 record (6-2 overall).

In the first inning, for example, Highland allowed a base-on-balls and committed two errors before recording an out. Nevertheless, RMA scored only one run thanks to a rare 6-3-5 double play and a fly out.

"We've done that all season," Hawks coach Micah Higgins said. "We've stranded a lot of guys on second and third, even with less than two outs. We've survived a lot."

If opponent base runners inspire the Hawks, relief pitcher Timmy Stephen played to Highland's strength perfectly Wednesday. Stephen allowed a lead-off walk in the fifth, sixth and seventh inning, but RMA scored only one run.

Stephen even had to deal with one Highland error during his three innings, while starting pitcher Tyler Zimmerman pitched around five errors during the opening four innings.

"It's actually more fun for me," Zimmerman said of pitching with base runners. "I do better when I have more pressure. … If you don't do better with runners on base, it's hard to win."

It's easier to win, of course, when not facing base runners at all. That realization kept the Hawks from celebrating much after beating RMA.

Highland hadn't committed more than three errors in a game prior to finishing Wednesday with six. In fact, the Hawks committed only 13 errors over their first seven games.

"Usually we're spot-on, but today we just had a little slump," Terrell said.

"We're better than we're playing," Zimmerman said. "We can improve on so many things right now. We're going to look at the good, but we're also going to look at the bad and improve on that."

Winning by five runs despite a disappointing performance should only bolster Highland's confidence. Plus, the Hawks played without all-state senior center fielder J.P. Graham, who sat out with an illness.

Graham helped Highland finish last season with a 9-6 record and a runner-up finish in the Delaney Athletic Conference tournament after the Hawks placed fourth during the DAC regular season. Highland hopes to build on that success in 2014.

"I say we can make a state run," Terrell said.

"I think we can win states," Zimmerman said. "When we're on, we can beat anyone. … Our slogan this year is 'Why not us?' Because nobody likes Northern Virginia baseball."

Highland's only two losses this season came to Christchurch, the 2013 VISAA Division II state runner-up. The Hawks lost a doubleheader, 4-2 and 12-1, Saturday.

"We played Christchurch very well" in the first game, Zimmerman said.

"We're definitely not a finished product," Higgins said. But "we're a team good enough to win the DAC and move on to the next step."

Highland lost only three players following the 2013 season. First baseman/catcher Andrew Williams and pitcher Demitri Batistas graduated while shortstop/pitcher Graeme Wright transferred to Paul VI.

The Hawks replenished their roster with three incoming transfer students – sophomore third baseman Mark Terrell (Fauquier High), freshman outfielder/pitcher Timmy Stephan (Culpeper High) and sophomore shortstop/pitcher Shane Buss (Fresta Valley).

"So we've got a good, young core there," Higgins said.

That trio composed Highland's heart of the order Wednesday with Buss and Stephen surrounding Terrell, who hit in the No. 4 spot. They combined for seven hits, seven runs, five RBIs and four steals.

"We've got a lot of power in the lineup; a lot of speed on the bases," Terrell said. "Power plus speed equals runs. So it's looking pretty good to me."

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Terrell has more power than an average high school baseball player. He went 3-for-4 against RMA with three runs, two steals, an RBI and a long line-drive double over the head of the Yellow Jacket's left fielder.

"I tell everyone he has light-pole power," Higgins said of the sophomore who played on Fauquier's junior varsity team last season. "It's all about him wanting to stay focused, stay back. Don't be over anxious."

Terrell leads the Hawks with a .583 batting average, 1.726 OPS, 17 RBIs, six doubles and two home runs.

"Pretty impressive," Higgins said. "He's been on point all season."

Matt Kelly (.308 average) leads Highland with 12 runs while Terrell has 10 and Evan Finley (.321) has nine. Senior first baseman Chris Ross is hitting .412 with Graham at .364 and Stephan at .360.

After Highland fell behind Wednesday in the top of the first inning, 1-0, it took the lead for good with four runs in the bottom of the first. With one out, Kelly, Buss, Terrell and Stephen hit consecutive singles. Zimmerman later added a two-out, two-RBI double.

As a team, Highland struck out only once in the game and amassed 12 hits.

Zimmerman went 2-for-4 at the plate while Stephen went 3-for-4 with three runs, two steals and an RBI. Ross added three RBIs and double on 2-for-4 hitting.

Randolph Macon starting pitcher Thomas Minchew took the loss after allowing six earned runs on nine hits and two walks over two innings. Reliever Travis Pullen allowed only one earned run on three hits and a walk over four innings.

Zimmerman, meanwhile, got his second win of the season after allowing three unearned runs on one hit and two walks. He struck out two over four innings.

"I felt pretty good on the mound – really fresh and ready," Zimmerman said. "My four-seamer was going pretty good outside."

Zimmerman (2-0) has a 1.40 ERA this season, 14 strikeouts and a save over 15 innings, while Graham (2-0) leads Highland with a 0.54 ERA and has 11 strikeouts over 13 innings.

Stephen pitched the final three innings against RMA, allowing one earned run on three walks and no hits while striking out three.

RMA third baseman Doug Brennand had the Yellow Jackets' only hit in the game – a fourth-inning double. Designated hitter Edwin Guyette went 0-for-2, but walked twice, stole two bases and scored once, while Robert DeBerry (0-for-2) reached base three times and stole two bases.

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