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Sugar House Journal

Highland baseball team jells on the diamond and in the community

May 08, 2017 10h55 ● By Bryan Scott

Highland players pose for a photo on their baseball field. (Julie Shipman / Brighton Highland Baseball Boosters)

By Koster Kennard | [email protected]

Highland High School baseball has been a below average baseball team for each of the past few seasons and hasn’t made the playoffs since 2005. But, with three consecutive wins over their rival East High School, the team is primed to compete for a playoff spot this season.

“We are currently fourth place in our region and we are sitting at 500 in region," said head coach Nick Sasich. "So, it’s been a good year so far from where the program has been historically at this point."

Sasich said that this year’s team is more cohesive than teams he’s had in past seasons.

“They’re more together as a team,” Sasich said. “I start six or seven underclassmen and they just jell really well together. They care about each other, they go out and they play for each other, and that’s different than some other teams in the past. They haven’t cared about each other or anything like that but this team just takes that another step further.”

Spencer Thomas, a junior who has spent time as a pitcher, first baseman and third baseman this season explained why.

“Recently, we’ve really come together as a team and really learned how to work together and trust each other that each person can do their job and I think that helps us play and compete well,” said Thomas.

First base coach Rafael Flores said that because this year’s team is young he has been able to grow.

“We’re always a young team I think and that’s going to be the big key this year,” Flores said. “We have two seniors, two juniors and a lot of sophomores playing varsity time. I’m excited about their development. They’ve grown. I’ve coached here for the last two years. They’ve improved every year and I think that what I’m excited about this year is putting all that hard work on the field for region play.”

The team beat East High 7-1, 10-6 and 12-0 on April 4, 5 and 6.

“We beat our rival pretty handily this year, which is a good step,” said Flores. “That was kind of one of our goals to be better than the school next to you. The kids kind of took that and we’ve got a long way to go but I also don’t think that it’s going to be as difficult as it was in the past.”

One player that has stood out offensively for the Rams is senior Nate Koelliker.

“He’s gotten off to a great start this year,” Flores said. “Our team relies on his offense to set up everybody else and not that he’s been a pleasant surprise, but he’s kind of come into his own this year and his bat has been tremendously helpful for the program.”

 Flores said that team captain Spencer Thomas has stepped up as leader.

“His leadership is important on the team,” said Flores. “We rally around Spencer. He’s a young kid that on and off the field holds himself to a pretty high standard and I think the team is focused on that and trying to emulate what Spencer Thomas does on and off the field as far as his hard work.”

In addition to playing together, the team has volunteered for several organizations including Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, the Special Olympics and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Salt Lake.

“We do a lot of volunteer service hours for the community,” Flores said. “That’s pretty important for the kids cause on the field is going to be what it’s going to be but I think to build these kids into citizens is my objective and I think we’ve done that. We’ve done a lot of service projects and we’ll continue to do service projects.”

Flores said he wants the community to know that the team is giving back to the community and that baseball isn’t their only focus.

“It’s been really fun as a team to do the service projects and to be able to work together because baseball’s just a game and it’s fun to play and we want to compete and do well, but we’re blessed a lot more than a lot of other people with the opportunities that we have,” Thomas said. “It’s been fun to go as a team and give back to the community and help others and improve their lives.”

Thomas said that he wants people to follow their team because they might be able to do something special this year.

“I’m just excited about seeing where this team can go for this season because, in recent years, Highland baseball hasn’t been able to compete or they haven’t been able to fight for a playoff spot,” said Thomas. “I’m excited to see if this team can finally push through and be the team to make the playoffs then see how far we can go.”