HP Baseball Looks to Exorcise Playoff Demons

Highland Park will open the playoffs tonight when it hosts Frisco Wakeland. (File photo: Kate Simone)
Highland Park will open the playoffs tonight when it hosts Frisco Wakeland. (File photo: Kate Simone)

Highland Park has plenty of momentum entering its bi-district baseball playoff series against Frisco Wakeland, which begins at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Scotland Yard.

The Scots (20-11) won nine of their last 10 regular-season games, a stretch that included three no-hitters by junior pitcher Layne Looney. They held their opponent to three or fewer runs in all nine of those games while their slow-starting offense came around.

HP has certainly come a long way since losing to District 10-4A cellar dweller West Mesquite on March 21, which dropped the Scots to 1-3 in league play and prompted a players-only meeting after the game.

“We kind of had our backs against the wall. After that, we kind of got locked in,” said first-year HP coach Travis Yoder. “Our kids started realizing that we couldn’t just walk through every game. It’s better to start slow and finish fast than to start fast and finish slow.”

The turnaround was remarkable for the Scots, who came within perhaps one bad inning during a loss to Carrollton Newman Smith from winning the 10-4A title. They finished in second place, one game behind Carrollton Creekview.

“All in all, we’re exactly where we wanted to be,” Yoder said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what this team can do.”

The series against the Wolverines (22-9) will continue with Game 2 at 7 p.m. Friday at Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, with a third game (if necessary) set for 1 p.m. Saturday back at HP.

The bi-district matchup offers a chance for the Scots to avenge their first-round upset loss to Prosper last season, which Yoder said was a wake-up call that serves as motivation for some of the returning players.

Wakeland, who finished third in a competitive District 9-4A this year, is a familiar postseason nemesis for HP, having knocked out the Scots three straight years in 2010, 2011, and 2012. All three of those series went to a third and deciding game.

One question this weekend is when the Scots will turn to Looney, who has a 9-0 record and a 0.58 earned-run average this season, in addition to 96 strikeouts in 60 innings pitched. Looney also has been one of the team’s top hitters.

“He’s had an unbelievable year all-around,” Yoder said. “Layne has a goofy side to him, but he’s a great competitor. He lets nothing get to him. I trust him to put us in the best position to win.”

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