Heritage Hills hopes to get over humpMarch 26, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
LINCOLN CITY — The 2019-20 season has brought about tons of success for Heritage Hills athletics. The football team won its first sectional championship in five years, and finished as the Class 3A state runners-up. The boys basketball squad won its first sectional championship since 2003 after disappointment in previous years.
After a 2019 season that saw a 22-7 record, second in the Pocket Athletic Conference and finishing runners-up to Evansville Memorial in the sectional championship, the Patriots next hope to clear another bar on the baseball field.
Some hurdles present themselves, though. The main one is the postponement of the season due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Schools are scheduled to be off until May 1. The Pats cannot practice during this time either.
They may have lost six seniors to graduation last year, but they'll have an even larger senior group this year, with eight returning to the team from 2019.
"They're great ballplayers, great kids and great leaders," coach Andy Fischer said.
Heritage Hills started to hold offseason workouts twice a week in January. Fischer praised four of his seniors - Zach Kemp, Nick Brinkman, Alex Gehlhausen and Reece Gogel - for their work in the preseason and showing that senior leadership.
The rest of the seniors are in basketball, and still put in baseball work on their own. Some of them garnered recognition from the Pocket Athletic Conference on its all-conference squad in 2019. Senior Cayden Kratzer and junior Cole Neighbors were honorable mentions. Simon Scherry made it on the regular team, and has signed to continue his baseball career at the University of Evansville, which Fischer attributed to Scherry's work ethic.
"He's a great leader," he said of Scherry. "He likes to help people get in the right position. From a shortstop position, he's always talking about where the play is before the pitch ever happens. He's a motivator. At the plate, he's got really hands...We're hoping that he has a really nice season this year."
Then there are some other returners who look to break their way into a starting position if and when the season picks up. Fischer praised sophomore catcher Evan Bowling for swinging the bat well, and junior Lane Spencer is stepping up from the junior varsity level to potentially having a spot for him in the infield. Sophomore JT Smallwood has worked on some things as well.
Fischer likes how Bowling has learned the pitchers' better pitches and qualities. He intends to call pitches himself in the early going of the season, but will hand over more of the reins to Bowling to calling things as the season progresses.
"He does a nice job receiving the ball," Fischer said of Bowling. "He's got a nice arm. We're just anticipating him doing a really nice job with the pitchers."
The Pats figure to have themselves a deep pitching staff. Gogel brings consistency when he goes out to the mound. Fellow senior Mark Doyle pitched in last year's sectional championship game. Neighbors got some innings in last year. Brinkman, Gehlhausen and Kemp could all contribute on the mound, as could juniors Logan Krzykowski and Adam Guth.
Senior Murray Becher has been listed as a pitcher in the past, but Fischer sees him as more of an outfielder, praising his quickness and speed that can cover a lot of ground in he outfield. The top of the lineup looks to be the versatile Neighbors likely leading off, with Kratzer in the second slot. Fischer lauded Kratzer's baseball IQ and his ability to move runners over.
The Pats will be part of what figures to be a competitive PAC. Southridge has made it to the state championship game two years running. Forest Park looks to aim higher. Gibson Southern and South Spencer could be competitive, too.
"I think we'll be in the mix, hopefully in the upper half, but if anybody knows anything about baseball, it's a funny game, anything can happen," Fischer said. "We're just going to try to play our best baseball each and every game and hopefully the results turn in our favor."
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