This time last year, Lake Highlands High School played the infamous baseball game against Samuell, with a final score of, as best anyone could figure, 54-0. Most spectators who attended the game said both teams demonstrated character and sportsmanship. Some who saw only the lopsided score called it ego-run-amok and demanded the ouster of long-time coach Jay Higgins. (The story was picked up by several national news outlets, including Forbes and ABC. Higgins retired at the end of the year after 44 years coaching baseball and a spot in the Texas High School Baseball Coaches’ Hall of Fame.)

Tonight at 6pm, the Wildcats will play their district home opener against, yes, the Samuell Spartans.

Today’s Wildcats are rejuvenated (they’ve fielded three teams this year) and they’re excited to be led by Cory Tucker in his first year as head coach. Significant improvements were made to The CAT, as the on-campus baseball fields are known, including the construction of wood-stained, two-tiered, major-league-style benches. The roof of the home dugout was raised 2 feet, and openings now permit air circulation for warm weather games. Padded, netted railings in front of both dugouts double the amount of space for players and equipment without blocking sightlines or jeopardizing safety, and batting cage restorations include new netting. The outfield wall is covered in 30 5’x10’ banners bearing logos of the LH businesses that made the improvements possible by donating cash or materials. (You can see a photo slideshow of the progress by team dad Kerry Bradley here.)

“I think it’s great that more kids are wanting to play this year, because it shows how well the program is doing and the impact the new coach has had,” said Brandon Terrell, an LHHS junior playing right field and pitcher. “Coach Tucker can relate to all of the players and he knows a lot about the game.”

“A lot of people who used to play for LH always come up to see us and watch the games and they can’t believe how lucky we are with the new changes,” said Senior Captain Trevor Curtis. “Winning district is a great goal we all have in common, and of course doing great in playoffs, but focusing on the regular season is our first priority. On the other hand, it’s baseball, it’s not life or death. It’s supposed to be fun and enjoyable.”

“We’ve been winning games we weren’t supposed to win,” added teammate Beau Barnes, who plays shortstop. “My expectations are that we’re going to be better than last year and about as good as my freshman year, when we were area champs.”

After the Wednesday night district game, the Elks Lodge Tournament will be played at The Cat with LH facing North Garland Thursday at 3pm, North Dallas Thursday at 7:30pm, Bishop Dunne Friday at 7:30pm and Lovejoy Sunday at 7pm. You can check out full schedules here for varsity and both JVs and see rosters with player numbers here. Go Cats!