Eager & Able

by Marc Narducci | Apr 15, 2024
Eager & Able
  Highland’s baseball team was in the news last week when coach DJ Gore earned his 300th career win. Now in his 23rd season, Gore has done a tremendous job at his alma mater—making the Tartans highly competitive on an annual basis. 

Despite all the publicity surrounding the milestone win, this year presents a major challenge to Gore.

It’s not because the Tartans lack talent, but this is among the more inexperienced teams in the area. Still, Highland should be highly competitive in the Tri-County Conference Liberty Division.

The Tartans are not considered the Liberty Division favorite. That mantle goes to Delsea, but as usual, Highland should be able to compete favorably with anybody in the division.

The Tartans began the week 4-2 after beginning the season in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and going 2-2 in that span.

Highland returned home to beat Washington Township—another highly respected South Jersey program—and then opened its Liberty Division slate with an 8-6 win over Deptford, which was Gore’s 300th victory.

That win gave a glimpse of Highland’s youth. The winning pitcher was sophomore righthander Luis Selles-Rodriguez. Classmate Nate Dougherty pitched two-plus innings of relief and earning the save was freshman Cade Schofield, who ended with pitching a shutout inning and striking out two.

In that game, Highland had six sophomores and a freshman (Schofield) who played.

“We’re young and with the inexperience, you see some tough plays that occur, but you also see some good things they do as well,” Gore said. 

Needless to say, he is excited to work with this young group.

Against Deptford, Highland’s two seniors who started were corner outfielder TJ Clendening and center fielder Kory Jenkins, the team leader.

Jenkins has breathtaking skill, great speed, and a high baseball IQ. Against Deptford he was 2-for-2 with two runs scored and an RBI and reached base all four times after twice getting hit by a pitch.

Through the first six games, Jenkins was hitting .333 (6 for 18) according to NJ.com stats. He is also among the top base stealers in South Jersey, with 13 to begin the week.

Jenkins is also a key member of the pitching staff. 

Dougherty began the week with a team-best 1.56 ERA, while Selles-Rodriguez (3.89) will also be shouldering a big mound load. In addition, Selles-Rodriguez also plays shortstop.

Sophomore catcher Ian Roberson began the season hitting .500 (7 for 14) over the first six games.

This is a Highland team that should continue to grow as the young players gain experience. 

The Liberty Division schedule is challenging enough, but Highland plays a strong non-division schedule, including a late-season matchup against Gloucester Catholic, last year’s consensus No. 1 South Jersey team, with the ability to repeat.

That schedule should help the Tartans prepare for the South Jersey Group 3 tournament. Again, this is a team that won’t be the favorite in the sectional tournament, but one that opponents won’t relish seeing, especially as the young players continue to grow. 

Photo of Highland's Luis Selles-Rodriguez / Marc Narducci

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Author: Marc Narducci

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