Highland Park is accustomed to considerable roster turnover. But even by HP standards, this season’s baseball squad will have a lot of new faces.
Such inexperience on the varsity stage will lead to plenty of question marks as the Scots take the field this spring. In fact, head coach Travis Yoder doesn’t recall a roster with so many newcomers during his time with the program. Yet he doesn’t necessarily consider that a bad thing.
“Going into the season last year, we had a lot of questions and we answered those,” Yoder said. “That’s kind of the same situation we’re facing this year.”
Indeed, HP surprised many outsiders when it cruised to a District 10-6A title last year, and pushed eventual state champion Jesuit to three games in a thrilling regional quarterfinal playoff series.
Thanks to graduation, however, William Adair, Kage Forrest, and Grayson Jones are the only returnees who saw significant playing time on that squad. Adair will move into the role of ace on the mound in addition to playing shortstop, while Forrest should be the everyday first baseman. Most spots will be up for grabs during scrimmages and early-season tournaments.
“The competition is fierce because there are so many people who want playing time,” Yoder said.
Once again, there will be a heavy dose of talent from the HP football team, which won a state title in December. Among the gridiron standouts shifting to the diamond are Michael Clarke, J.D. Beverly, John Hoover, Jackson Dugger, and Babe Walker.
“They’re coming over with a sense of winning. It only can help,” Yoder said. “They bring an aggression from football that we welcome on the baseball field.”
The Scots hope to find the right combination of players to push them past the third round of the playoffs. They’ve lost in the regional quarterfinals in each of the past four years, which is both a great achievement and a growing burden.
Without a lot of power in the lineup, HP likely will look to be aggressive on the bases, and rely on sharp defense and pitching to win close games.
The Scots will be tested by a tough nondistrict schedule and a District 15-5A alignment that includes Forney, Mesquite Poteet, and Wylie East.
“Having the success we had last year is a motivator. You don’t need to have a lot of Division I players or returning starters,” Forrest said. “I know we’ll have good pitching, and we’ll find a way to win games. That’s the Scottie way.”