High-scoring Highlands executes turnaround with five consecutive wins

When Highlands baseball began its season with eight losses, some might have assumed the Owls had a long, frustrating season ahead.

The Owls, though, simply turned the page and embarked upon a new course. Highlands bashed Kennedy, 16-5, on March 23 in a District 27-5A contest to extend its winning streak to five games.

“Considering where we started out and where we are now — it’s night and day,” fourth-year Highlands coach Adrian Juarez said. “I’m still a nervous wreck at times. But I’m doing pretty well at other times.”

Juarez credits team-building exercises before the Southwest ISD Tournament on March 4-5 for the fresh start.

The Owls had been outscored 52-11 over four games at the SAISD Tournament the previous weekend and lost their first District 27-5A game to Jefferson by the 10-run rule on March 2. Playing a stronger set of opponents, Highlands began putting things together at the Southwest ISD tourney.

“What we did was get to know each other again,” Juarez said. “After doing the team-building, the boys were really bonded together.

“They were doing the little things better. If they made a mistake, they shook it off and made the next play.”

Two games during Spring Break started the winning streak, including a 9-6 win over Burbank on March 10.

“It was a good game for us,” Juarez said. “In our tournament schedule, we played some quality teams. Once the boys stopped looking at the scoreboard and started looking at how we were playing, it changed their mentality a lot.”

More recently, the Owls won, 10-0, over Sam Houston on March 16, and 13-2 over Lanier on March 19, ahead of the Kennedy game.

At Kennedy, Moses Gonzalez (3-for-5, 5 RBIs) started the scoring with an RBI double in the first inning that ignited a three-run rally. The Owls scored four runs in each of the next two innings, while pitcher Nathaniel Perez limited the Rockets to two runs through the first four.

Perez, who allowed five hits, lost his father to COVID-19 in late January and contracted the virus himself.

“Nate has battled some issues,” Juarez said. “We didn’t get him back until the second week of the season, before our scrimmage.”

Gonzalez collected another RBI with a second-inning base hit and drove in two with a third-inning single that built an 11-1 lead. Devin Salame (2 RBIs) added a sacrifice fly in the third.

A double by Eli Ramos (3 RBIs) drove in Highlands’ last two runs.

“It was one of those games where you have a few standouts,” Juarez said, “but everybody contributed in some way — from a sacrifice bunt to a sacrifice fly to just pumping up the team.

“Coach (Albert) Olivarez has a great team there,” Juarez said. “They play hard and hit the ball.”

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