By Michael Finnegan / Special Contributor
Darius Hill’s opposite field home run in the top of the first inning gave Jesuit a 1-0 win over neighborhood rival Highland Park in the opening game of a Class 6A Region II quarterfinal series on Thursday at Scotland Yard.
With two outs and nobody on base, Hill drove HP ace Layne Looney’s pitch deep over the left-center field wall.
Hill’s solo shot, along with a shutout on the mound by Harrison Folk, was all the Rangers (30-2-2) needed to take a series advantage back to their home field on Friday.
“I never thought after Darius’ homer in the first inning that this game would end up being a pitcher’s duel,” said Jesuit head coach Brian Jones. “But that’s exactly what happened.”
Folk fanned three and Looney, a Richmond signee, struck out 10 Jesuit batters as the two seniors combined to allow 11 hits.
“It really was a fantastic high school playoff baseball game,” said Highland Park head coach Travis Yoder. “We had opportunities, but just could not capitalize.”
In the bottom of the first, HP threatened as Jon Skidmore led off with a single and advanced to third after William Adair’s double to deep right field. But with men on second and third with no outs, Folk answered by striking out the next batter and then forced two infield groundouts to get out of the inning.
“We knew coming in that Harrison had to hit the inside part of the plate against their strong hitters,” said Jones. “He pitched a very strong game.”
Folk, who committed to Johns Hopkins just last weekend, pitched out of another jam in the bottom of the last inning while hanging on to the narrow lead.
HP’s Austin Harrison reached base after being hit by a pitch, bringing up Baylor signee Skidmore, who gave the Scots (26-6) hope with a deep shot to right field that died at the warning track to end another threat.
“He hit me hard in the first inning,” Folk said of Skidmore. “So I wanted to pitch him fastballs away, and that’s what I did on that last at-bat.”
The loss snapped a 15-game winning streak for HP, which is trying to advance to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2008.
“They’re in the driver’s seat,” Yoder said. “But we’ll go into [Friday’s] game with our heads high, knowing we have to hit the ball well.”
If the Scots win on Friday, they would force a deciding Game 3 at 10 a.m. Saturday at Scotland Yard.