The Heights baseball team is a relatively young squad in which underclassmen outnumber seniors. It is a team that has struggled with consistency in pitching and a few defensive aspects. One thing, however, has remained constant in the Falcons' approach.
"We've got nine guys that can hit," Heights coach Jeff Topping said. "We're trying to find nine guys that can play defense, and we're trying to find four guys that can throw strikes."
Heights' senior leadership at the plate has kept the team in games and has been a bright spot for Topping as he tries to improve his team heading into the second half of the season.
"We're very close. We've worked hard at practice," Heights catcher Nate Welch said. "Guys are starting to find their defense. We see it in practice every day. We've just got to step out on the field and perform."
Topping said outfielder Brant Baker, first baseman Dylan Fensky and Welch are the seniors that have taken charge in the lineup and have made it possible for the Falcons to climb back to .500.
"All three of us put in extra work before and after practice," Fensky said. "Whether together or by ourselves, we just put in the work. We know that all three of us as seniors want to help out the team."
They've also improved to 3-5 in the City League after rough starts in doubleheaders against league leaders Northwest (9-0) and Kapaun Mount Carmel (8-2).
Heights is batting .400. Baker, Fensky and Welch are hitting .565, .462 and .471. Baker and Fensky have two home runs each, and Welch leads the team with 12 RBIs.
"We work a lot on being smart hitters was well," Welch said. "We try to have approaches at the plate and do different things to score runs. It's not all about hitting home runs left and right."
Becoming a complete pitcher — Kapaun starter Michael Reynolds is still learning to become a pitcher. The junior has one of the strongest arms in the area, with a fastball that fluctuates between 85 and 88 mph .
After two starts, Reynolds is 1-0 and coach Steve Lienhard believes his development and success on the mound could be a factor in how far the team goes in the playoffs.
"He's got a lot of potential. He's still learning how to pitch," Lienhard said. "He becomes a thrower at some times, trying to overpower people.... He's got a lot to learn, but he's doing a good job. We rely on him heavily. Obviously we can't pitch him every game, but we use him in situations that are best for the team."
On his way to a win against Heights in his first start, Reynolds showed signs of growth. He said he wanted batters to put balls into play so his infield could come through for him and keep the pitch count down.
"Coach has been trying to help me," he said. "I always look forward to striking people out. That's how I used to pitch. Coach has been helping me to know that I can get contact and my defense will help me get the outs that I need."
Lienhard said Reynolds will start in one of Kapaun's games against Northwest on Friday. He's just not sure which one it will be.