By Michael Finnegan / Special Contributor
ROWLETT — They call it a “save” for a reason. William Adair struck out three Rowlett batters with runners on second and third with no outs in the bottom of the final inning to preserve Highland Park’s 2-1 victory on Friday.
The dramatic win secured a sweep of the Class 6A Region II area round series, following a marathon five-hour, 17-inning game on Thursday night that Highland Park won 4-3.
“Playing 17 innings the night before is uncharted territory,” said HP head coach Travis Yoder. “The kids have to go to school in six hours and really have no down time to prepare for the next game after going to school all day.”
The Scots used three pitchers in Game 1 who combined to throw 269 pitches, and Yoder had a plan in case the series went the distance. He managed to get through Game 1 without using two of his three regular starters.
“Sawyer Lake and Noah Williams each threw just over 100 pitches and seven innings apiece in Thursday night’s game,” Yoder said. “Tom McDaniel, who had not pitched in a game in two months, came in for those last three innings and closed it out for us.”
In Game 2, Highland Park built a 2-0 lead in the third inning after an RBI single by Kyle Burnett and was well on its way to the next round before the dramatic seventh inning.
“We were playing mistake-free baseball until the last inning,” said Yoder. “Two unfortunate errors made it close and we were an instant away from another extra-inning game.”
Rowlett put three runners in scoring position on two overthrown balls, one of which cost a run. But Adair, who was scheduled to start if need be in Game 3, entered in relief of Grant Howell and proceeded to strike out the side for the save.
“Howell pitched a heck of game, allowing only four hits,” said Yoder. “But I noticed a little fatigue so I went with Adair.”
Highland Park has a staff of 10 pitchers who are prepared to be ready for situations that the Rowlett series presented.
“To be honest, I was not nervous at all when we threw McDaniel at the end of the first game,” he said. “They’re always on call and throw bullpen sessions all week long.”
HP advances to the regional quarterfinals, where it has been eliminated in each of the past three seasons. The Scots could face a rematch against rival Jesuit, which swept HP a year ago.