The Highland Park baseball team has had lots of luck so far this season. The problem is most of it has been bad.
Even with ace left-hander Matt Wilson striking out 13 and not surrendering an earned run in 5.1 innings of work, the Scots dropped a 4-2 decision to Forney to open District 10-4A play on Tuesday night at Scotland Yard. Jackrabbits pitcher Cody Tyler, a Wichita State signee, struck out eight, walked four, and went all seven innings to get the victory.
“We don’t like to make excuses, but it’s been a rough early start for us with all the starters’ injuries,” Scots head coach Fred Oliver said. “It’s unbelievable. We had, at one time, six starters out. At last week’s tournament, we didn’t have one starter on the infield. We got a few of them back tonight, but this was their first outing in over a week.”
The Scots (4-7, 0-1) took an early lead in the second inning when Cooper Chaltas doubled home Matthew Lillard, who hit a leadoff triple. Wilson also had Forney batters baffled early on, fanning the first six Jackrabbits he faced. Trey Bedrick gave Forney (6-4, 1-0) the lead on a two-run single in the top of the fourth that came with two outs after an error by shortstop Jon Skidmore. Wilson (0-3) struck out the first batter of the sixth inning before turning the ball over to Kyle Robertson after throwing a season-high 92 pitches.
“I felt pretty good,” Wilson said. “I felt like I had the same stuff in the later innings I did in the early innings, I didn’t feel like the stuff deteriorated. We just had a couple of bad bounces. Last year, we were 0-3 and 1-4 in district, which is a much bigger hole. We have two very winnable games next week in district, so we feel like we’re still in really good position to contend for the district title.”
The Jackrabbits plated two more runs that inning on a sacrifice fly by J.R. McCauley and an RBI single by Chase Schlebach. The Scots were able to tack on another run in the sixth when Robertson doubles, went to third on a flyout, and then scored on a groundout. But both teams went down in order in the seventh inning. Tyler struck out the side to end the game.
“We’re not really a great baseball team right now, so we have to fight for everything we have,” Oliver said. “I’m a realist. You’ve got to shave solid defense with a pitcher like we had on the mound, and then you’ve got to scratch for runs. We’ve got to manufacture those runs this year. We don’t have power hitters — they’ve got to understand that. Forney out-played us as far as playing great defense and getting the timely hits. We didn’t do that.”
Leadoff hitter Davis Rolfe had the only other hit of the game for Highland Park with a double in the first. Both teams finished with four hits. After this week’s Scotland Yard Classic, Highland Park will get back to District 10-4A play with a 7:30 p.m. road game at North Forney on Tuesday. After that 1-4 start to district play last season, the Scots rallied to make the playoffs and go three rounds.
“You don’t want to dig yourself a hole early,” Oliver said. “We’ve got 13 district games left. You don’t want to panic right now. We’ll get another shot at Forney. The goal is still there to win the district championship. I really believe this team can do that. We’ve got to get a rhythm going with our defense and all of our starters out there. It’s been a struggle and a nightmare up to his point. We’ve got to make our players understand that we’ve had adversity early. If we get over the hump, it’s going to be really good down the line.”