Highlanders take down Reed in first round of tourney

By Yaresly Sanchez
La Habra Journal

La Habra’s Braxton Hutcherson throws one in during the Highlanders’ victory.

A game winning double RBI by senior outfielder Noah Avelar got the ball rolling for the La Habra Highlanders as they took down the Reed Raiders 4-1 in the Anaheim Lions Spring Baseball Tournament on Monday.

What seemed to start off as a loud, slow match for the Highlanders took a turn as La Habra made a quick turnaround just before the end of the game, and Head Coach John Sothern credits La Habra’s resiliency for the victory.

“It’s one of those things that you try to do it over and over again and it’s not gonna fail every single time, if you keep the same approach it’s going to eventually go your way and that’s what happened to us,” Sothern said.

A struggle the Highlanders saw trending throughout the course of the match was leaving their teammates on base. Failure to make the right contact with the ball made a win seem like a long shot, something Sothern said has more to do with the individual pressures the batters face at the plate.

“We’ve always been pretty good at getting guys on and getting guys over, but just scoring guys has always been an issue for us,” Sothern said. “Augie Garrido talked about how pressure is a choice, if these guys didn’t know the inning, the score, or anything … they’d go up and they’d be fine.”

As the game grew to a close, the Highlanders returned to the dugout with frustrated faces, and a loud Reed dugout didn’t help with the fact that La Habra couldn’t get on the scoreboard.

However, Sothern said the loudness coming from the right side of the field did nothing to affect the Highlanders attitude during the game.

“There’s a different style of being loud that will sometimes affect our guys,” Sothern said. “Our guys are more affected by failure.”

The match began to get heated in the sixth inning when a first-base out was challenged by the Raiders, and the Highlanders decided to make a switch in their pitching when Jackson Manzer replaced Pablo Small at the top of the sixth inning.

Despite giving up one run, Small faced 23 batters in five innings and recorded five strikeouts and 14 first-pitch strikes.

The bottom of the sixth seemed like it would end just the same as the other innings had gone after Highlanders shortstop Caleb Ramos launched a pop fly into center field to earn La Habra its first out.

But things quickly turned around when senior third baseman and right-hand pitcher Braxton Hutcherson hit the plate.

Hutcherson singled to left field and the bats remained hot after Manzer singled to put both players on base.

Pinch runners came into play this inning as the Highlanders turned to be strategic in utilizing their bench to make sure they didn’t lose their opportunities to score, something Sothern said the team prepared for all year.

“We play just about as many games in the fall and winter as we do in the regular season for that reason to see who can do what and when and how,” Sothern said. “I like to use my bench, and I’ve always liked to use my bench, we carry 20-22 guys a year and it’s for that reason.”

Sciacca managed a single off of Reed’s pitcher, but a fielding error by the Raiders allowed Hutcherson to make it home, tying the game 1-1.

Senior Justyn Duran kept the momentum going with a single to right field, and hesitation on the Raiders’ fielding allowed the Highlanders to take the lead (2-1) when pinch runner Joseph Ramirez scored.

Sciacca and senior Ethan Rolbiecki successfully stole second and third base before Avelar’s bat brought them home, and earned him the most RBI’s of the match (2).

It wasn’t until senior center fielder Ricky Akles hit a line drive to third base that the Raiders were able to give La Habra its final out.

The Highlanders made one last change to its pitching staff with Hutcherson stepping on the mound to face four batters before the game was called a victory for the Highlanders.

La Habra will gear up to travel to face Alta Loma on Tuesday March 27 at 11 a.m.

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.