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Valley Journals

Rams baseball reaches state tournament for first time since 2005

May 16, 2018 11:39AM ● By Josh McFadden

Highland shortstop Andrew Thomas turns a double play in a game earlier this season against West. (McInnis Kevin Photography)

By Josh McFadden | josh@mycityjournals.com

In any sport, every team wants to extend its season as long as possible. Qualifying for the playoffs gives everyone an opportunity to play for the top prize. The Highland baseball team hasn’t had that chance in quite a while—but it will this season.

The Rams wrapped up their regular season with an overall mark of 14-11. More importantly, they were 6-9 in Region 6, good enough for fourth place. Highland snagged the region’s final playoff berth and qualified for its first state tournament appearance since 2005.

“It has been 13 years since Highland has played in the post season,” said head coach Nicholas Sasich. “That was my goal as soon as I took the job five years ago. Playing in the postseason is a good measure of the health of the program, and it is so important for growth. I am so proud of this team and the work they put in to accomplish this. It was so important to get back to setting this standard.”

Highland beat West twice in the last three games of the season to help lock up the tournament berth. Sasich said there is enthusiasm around the program that hasn’t been around in years.

“After the last out was made (in the final regular season game), there was so much excitement and buzz throughout the team,” he said. “So many years of hard work had finally paid off. With that too, there was a sense of relief of finally kicking that door in. The mindset now has to shift back to work—refocus and get back into the frame of mind that we still have a job to do.”

Finally reaching the goals of getting to state was no easy feat. The Rams had to beat out two other region foes for the final spot. Sasich said even though the team still had some struggles, the players were able to overcome them and do just enough to prolong the season a little longer.

“In order to achieve what we wanted, we had to find consistency within our game,” he said. “We had our ups and downs, but at the end of the day, when we had to get a win, we got it done. All year this team showed resilience and answered to any adversity we faced. That was key.”

Sasich highlighted the play and leadership of seniors Spencer Thomas and Cole Peterson. Thomas, a pitcher, helped play a role in keeping the final six opponents under six runs. Peterson, an outfielder, hit seven doubles this season and played well in the field as well.

“My two seniors have been the pillar of this team throughout,” Sasich said. “[Thomas] and [Peterson] have lead this team to push through the tough moments. We have a lot of young players that have looked to them to lean on when things have been hard.”

The Rams drew a tough game in the first round of the 5A state tournament on the road against Region 5 champion Viewmont. The tournament follows double-elimination format, so the Rams were guaranteed at least two games.

Sasich and his team were thrilled to be a part of the postseason and to have a shot against some of the best teams in the state. Regardless of what happened at state, Sasich is grateful to be a part of one of the best seasons Highland baseball has seen in several years.

“This whole season has been so much fun,” he said. “This group of players is a close-knit group, and it really has a sense of family. I think the whole journey has been the highlight for me personally. It has been fun to watch them grow and get better.”