"Highland Park baseball playoff march halted," Art Finley, The Park Cities News http://www.parkcitiesnews.com, Sports Editor, Volume 69, No. 23, Thursday, June 7, 2007.

 

Colleyville - The 2007 Highland Park varsity baseball season came to a bitter end as MesquitePoteet, the 10-4A champions, edged the Scots, 4-3, in eight innings in a one-game playoff in front of a packed house at Colleyville Heritage High School. Poteet moves on to this weekend’s 4A UIL State Tournament, while the Scots finish an amazing season for first-year head coach Sam Roberson, with a record of 33-10. The Pirates chose a one-game playoff format, opting to ride the left arm of undefeated junior Teddy Nowell and his 15-0 record. Highland Park countered with tough-as-nails right-hander Evan Blakeley. The Scots rocked Nowell for 10 hits but mistakes proved to be Highland Park ’s undoing in the one-run loss.

Highland Park also got the short straw on who would be home-team and in the end; the home-field advantage was just that.

Nowell had little trouble retiring the Scots in order in the top of the first inning. He got Hainsfurther on a lead off blast to centerfield that was tracked down by Poteet’s Taylor Wilcox, to rob HP’s lead off hitter of extra bases. Senior captain Nick Flabiano drilled a Nowell pitch, but the Poteet junior and son of former Poteet coach Ted Nowell, made a great play to snag the come-backer and flip to first base to easily retire Flabiano. Scot junior Dutch Crews also put the ball in play but Poteet’s Kevin Lantrip was able toget Crews at first after fielding a ground ball at his second-base slot.

Poteet grabbed some early momentum in the bottom of the first when left-fielder Nick Allen smacked a Blakeley pitch for a lead-off single. Nowell followed with a sacrifice bunt to move Allen into scoring position. Pirate third-baseman Bryce Cummings delivered a single but it was not enough to score Allen, leaving Poteet with runners on the corners and one out. Catcher J.T. Files then managed to work walk off Blakeley to load the bases. Blakeley then showed why he is so highly regarded on the mound and that is his mental toughness and ability to not let opponents ever rattle him. Blakeley struck out Nick Carrio for a huge second out and then forced Poteet shortstop and son of head coach Bobby Doe, Brett Doe, into a ground out to extinguish a potential first inning headache.

Nowell stayed red hot in the second inning as he got senior Scot captain and cleanup hitter to fly out to right field. Nowell followed with strikeouts of HP juniors Mason Woodley and Jonathan Perlman for another 1-2-3 half inning.

Blakeley answered with a convincing 1-2-3 effort in the bottom of the second. He struck out Charley Westmoreland, forced a pop-up by Lantrip, and then blew it past Wilcox for his third strike-out to end the second inning.

The Scots got their first hit in the top of the third when junior Nathan Venz, who got the start at first-base, ripped a double off Nowell. The Pirate pitcher then turned in another defensive gem, snagging a hard-hit ball by Highland Park senior Ryan O'Dwyer. Scot catcher Andrew Scates got under a Nowell pitch for a pop-up to second and then Nowell was able to get Hainsfurther on a fly ball to end the Scots' third.

The bottom of the third inning was a painful for one Blakeley and Scots as Poteet pushed across three runs, two of them unearned after a Highland Park error.

Blakeley started the inning by forcing Allen to ground out to Hainsfurther at shortstop. Nowell was able to draw a walk after some controversial calls behind the plate. Blakeley rebounded and blew away Cumings with a strikeout for the second out of the inning. After going 3-0 to Files, HP put the Pirate catcher on intentionally to set up a force out with runners at first and second. Carrio then hit what could have been the last play of the inning but swirling winds allowed a ball to drop in right, scoring two runs and setting off a wild celebration by the Pirate fans and players. Doe then added to the damage with a two-out RBI single for a 3-0 Pirate lead. Blakeley ended the mess with his second strikeout of Westmoreland.

The Scots showed their in the top of the fourth with the momentum clearly on the side of the Pirates. Flabiano fought back from 0-2 count for a lead off single off Nowell. It set the stage for Crews, who hammered a Nowell fastball over the left-field fence and just like the three-run lead was reduced to 3-2. Nowell managed to wriggle out of the inning without any further scoring.

Blakeley dusted the Pirate lineup in the bottom of the fourth forcing a pop-up by Lantrip and strikeouts of Wilcox and Allen to end the 1-2-3 inning.

The Scots tied the games in the top of the fifth. Andrew Scates started the rally with a lead off single. Nowell flashed his dangerous pick off move and nailed the Scot courtesy runner at first base. Hainsfurther was then hit by a Nowell pitch. Flabiano showed his competitiveness again with a single that moved Hainsfurther. "Clutch" Crews came through again for Highland Park with an RBI single to tie the game as Hainsfurther scored. Crews was thrown out on the play at second-base as he attempted to stretch his hit to a double.

Blakeley stayed in the groove in the bottom of the fifth with another strikeout as he racked up another 1-2-3 inning as the momentum of the game was shifting to the Scots.

Perlman and Vent each managed singles off Nowell in the top of the sixth but once again, Nowell escaped without relinquishing the lead.

Files opened the bottom of the sixth with a smash off Blakeley but he was thrown on the play at third base, wasting the lead off hit. Blakeley had little trouble forcing Doe into a ground ball and forcing pinch-hitter Zach Stanley to fly out to center.

It looked like the "never say die" 2007 Scots were going to pull out another close games. Hainsfurther led off the inning with a sharp single off Nowell. the brought the red-hot Flabiano to the plate. Once again, Flabiano hit the ball solidly, but unfortunately Poteet's Lantrip was in perfect position to catch the liner and fire to first to get Hainsfurther and take the air out of the HP balloon. Nowell was able to end the Scot seventh on a fly ball out by Crews.

Coach Roberson stayed with Blakeley in the bottom of the seventh and it proved to be a very sage decision as the Scot senior posted another scoreless half-inning.

The top of the eighth got off to a promising start for Highland Park as Russell drew a lead off walk off Nowell. But the Pirate pitcher showed why he came in undefeated as he retired the Scots in order after walk with a pair of strikeouts and a ground-ball out.

Cummings led off the bottom of the eighth against Blakeley and responded with a single to left field. Files also belted a single off Blakeley before the Scot senior struck out Carrio for the first out. The next batter, however, will remembered by Pirate and Scot fans alike. Ironically, it was the coach's son the delivered the game-winning punch with a flare single to right-field that allowed Cummings to punch the Pirates' ticket to state with the winning run in the 4-3 epic.

"Obviously, we had some mistakes that cost us," said Roberson, who led Highland Park from a 14-8 record to finish 33-10. "But nobody got down, which has been the story of the year, and sure enough the kids fought back like they did all season. I couldn't be more proud of them. The game in a way was a microcosm of our entire season. The kids won 19 of their last 21 games, including a 16-game win streak. They stayed focused and never, ever gave up."

Roberson went on to thank many of the key people in the 2007 season

"Well first of all, I again want to thank the HPISD administration for the faith they showed in hiring me for the job. I am extremely grateful to work with these fine young men. And I certainly must thank varsity assistant coach Dave Curliss, who worked tirelessly all season and helped keep our attitude upbeat. He is a special guy and I could not ask for a better assistant. I also want to recognize our non-varsity coaches; Travis Yoder and Jeff Markle. Their scouting all over the area was so valuable to our team. All of the parents did such a great job of supporting us and I want to thank all of the HP that pulled for us in 2007."

"Like Bum Phillips said; last year we knocked on the door, next year we are gonna kick it down!"