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Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of updates on former high school sports stars from the Tri-State participating in college athletics:

Few athletes make such as impressive performance at such a young age, but sophomore Gracie Hightower was spectacular last season at West Virginia Wesleyan. The former Cabell Midland High School softball star led the Bobcats in batting with a .401 average, at bats (2-2) hits (81), runs (41) and triples (2). She was 9 for 9 in stolen base attempts and started all 57 games. Hightower drove in 20 runs and smacked eight doubles in earning NCAA Division II All-Atlantic Region and All-Mountain East Conference honors.

Hightower, whose brother Kyle was a redshirt freshman on the baseball team, was one of several local players competing at the Buckhannan, West Virginia, school. Here’s a look at some others who played this spring:

Noah Birthisel, Hurricane HS, baseball: A redshirt senior, Birthisel appeared in six games and batted .063. He drove in two runs.

Eli Brogan, Lincoln County HS, baseball: A freshman, Brogan was 0-5 with an 11.16 earned run average.

Hunter Eplin, Cabell Midland HS, baseball: A sophomore pitcher/infielder, Eplin went 2-4 with a 9.66 ERA on the mound. He struck out 24 and walked 19 in 31 1/3 innings. At the plate, Eplin started 15 games and hit .214.

Sam Ingram, Winfield HS, baseball: A junior utility player, Ingram hit one home run and knocked in 18 runs. He stole 10 bases in 11 attempts and swatted seven doubles.

Taylor Swartz, Meigs HS, baseball: The junior catcher/infielder batted .290 with eight home runs and 43 runs batted in this season, starting all 57 games. She slugged .477 and reached base at a .350 clip.

Tim Stephens is a sports writer with The Herald-Dispatch.

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