For the second straight game, a home run in the top of the first inning gave the visiting team an early lead. But this time it didn’t hold up.
Jesuit rallied with four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to defeat Highland Park 5-3 on Friday, completing a sweep of the Scots in a Class 6A Region II quarterfinal series.
HP struggled to capitalize on its opportunities for the second straight game. The Scots (26-7) stranded at least one runner in every inning, and left a total of 10 runners on base.
“We haven’t had timely hitting both games,” said HP head coach Travis Yoder. “When you’ve got opportunities, you need to take advantage of them.”
Meanwhile, after being chased from the mound in the third inning, Kyle Muller redeemed himself by doubling home the go-ahead run to key the rally for the Rangers (31-2-2), who trailed 2-1 entering the bottom of the sixth.
“Sooner or later, he’s going to come through in some way, shape, or form,” said Jesuit head coach Brian Jones. “He’s too good of a player.”
After losing a 1-0 heartbreaker on its home field on Thursday – when Jesuit’s Darius Hill homered in the first inning – HP started fast on Friday, as Jon Skidmore hammered Muller’s second pitch of the game over the left-field wall for a lead-off homer.
Muller continued to struggle with his control into the third, as a one-out single by William Wessman scored pinch-runner Grant Howell to give the Scots a 2-0 advantage. That was the end for Muller, who had been dominant all season but retired just seven of the 14 HP hitters he faced.
Enter sophomore reliever J.J. Montenegro, who struck out consecutive hitters – both on full counts – with the bases loaded to keep the deficit at 2-0.
That seemed to swing the momentum in favor of Jesuit, which sliced the deficit in half when a two-out single by Hill scored Chase Jennings in the bottom of the third.
The Scots missed another major opportunity to score in the fifth, when Layne Looney led off with a single and Wessman walked. But a pickoff and two strikeouts ended the threat.
HP pitcher William Adair kept Jesuit hitters off balance for much of the night, but in the bottom of the sixth, the Rangers scored four runs with no outs. Hill led off with a single, and eventually scored on a base hit by Nic Ready that tied the game at 2-2.
After Muller’s double to left put the Rangers in front, Bryce Bonner provided some insurance with a two-run double off HP reliever Sawyer Lake. Adair wound up allowing five runs and eight hits in five-plus innings.
The Scots got one run in the top of the seventh when a double by Kyle Robertson scored pinch-runner Brandt Gros. Then Jesuit brought on lefty Jacob Palisch, a Park Cities native, who got the final out and earned the save.
“Our pitching staff has been great. Holding this offense to three runs, I couldn’t be more proud,” Jones said. “It’s been tough sometimes finding enough innings to go around. To keep them in shape and ready to go has been difficult. But they’ve kept a great attitude.”
It was the fourth straight series loss in the regional quarterfinal round for HP. But considering the Scots won the District 10-6A title in their first season in the state’s highest classification, Yoder said the team should be proud of its efforts.
“We kind of ran into a buzzsaw in that sixth inning,” Yoder said. “Tonight wasn’t our night, but our kids fought hard. This season has been a success for us.”