Diamond Dreams: Experience Fuels Optimism for Scots

HP faces difficult schedule in renewed quest for district title, playoff success

Highland Park players and coaches still feel the sting of that final inning from last season’s second-round playoff series that ultimately ended their season.

However, many of the same faces who were on the field and in the dugout for that Class 5A Region II area-round defeat against Marshall are back for the Scots in 2022, with renewed optimism about a deeper postseason run.

Indeed, experience should benefit HP, which has more than a half-dozen starters returning both in the lineup and on the mound — from a team that won 24 games a year ago and was the runner-up in District 13-5A.

“The ups and downs from last season I think we’re going to learn from,” said HP head coach Travis Yoder. “This group works hard and they compete.”

With several seniors returning to the lineup with significant varsity experience, Yoder hopes HP can again challenge for a title in a challenging district, while also breaking through for the type of deep playoff run that has been elusive.

The Scots saw their 2021 season end with a heartbreaking 8-7 setback in the decisive third game of a second-round series against Marshall, marking the fourth consecutive season in which the Scots have been ousted on the second weekend of May.

HP’s pitching staff will be led by lefthander Collin Valentine, a University of Texas signee, as well as fellow returnee Ben Bailey. Preston Gamster and Jack Curtis should contribute on the mound, along with Jordan Stribling and Sam Webster.

Gamster and Curtis also will play key roles in a lineup featuring several familiar faces such as infielders Jack Rich and Jack True, catcher Parker Stephens, and outfielders Braden Jirovec and Trey Brimmage.

HP again will be tested by a district and a region that has several top pitchers returning. That could lead to more close, low-scoring games that test mental toughness.

“We’ve hit well at times and we’ve pitched well at times. We’re trying to find that combination,” Yoder said. “If we have both, we’re going to be tough.”

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