If you plan to attend a Highland Park baseball game this season, make sure to grab a roster. Otherwise, you’re going to be kind of lost.
After a 25-12-1 season in which the Scots advanced to the third round of the playoffs, Highland Park returns only two players — left-handed pitcher Matt Wilson and second baseman Dylan May — from last year’s varsity squad.
“The way I explain it to our coaches is you’re going to have years like this,” fourth-year Scots head coach Fred Oliver said. “That’s what makes coaching coaching; that’s what makes it fun. I like to see fresh, new faces on varsity. They’re excited about being on varsity. You’re not going to get kids who don’t want to be there or aren’t going to give you their best. They want to be out there playing. It’s great to see young teams like this as they mature and get better. There’s only one way to go — and that’s up.”
The team will have eight seniors in their first season on the varsity level. Oliver said the sophomore class is the program’s strongest and that several members of it will be strong contributors this season. Still, Oliver plans to use non-district play to formulate a lineup.
“We’ve got to mold a team,” Oliver said, “We don’t have a starting lineup. We’re going to have a lot of guys playing early. There are some seniors coming up for the first time on varsity who will contribute a whole lot. They’re going to have to step up. We’ll have some juniors and sophomores who will also have to get right in there. What’s good about that is now you have those guys another year or two more years after this year that mold into that team.”
And even though there are only two returning varsity players, Oliver said the duo is a strong one.
“We couldn’t have better captains in Matt Wilson and Dylan May,” Oliver said. “Those are two good leaders, but I tell them, ‘You don’t have to carry them on your shoulders. You’ve got to play baseball, and the other guys will perform, too.’ We not only have youth, but it’s inexperience. We’ve got to be patient with them, as hard as that is sometimes. It’s in progress. We don’t dodge anybody. We’re going to play the best of the best in these tournaments, so they’ll learn really quick what they need to do to step up. We’ll win some; we’ll lose some.”
The Scots will have an entirely different group of District 10-4A foes this season, including traditionally strong programs Mesquite Poteet and Forney, which Highland Park will open district play against on March 5.
“It would be hard to match the last two years of the district we’ve been in,” Oliver said. “It was very competitive. Not that this one is not going to be, but when you lose Rockwall, Rockwall-Heath, and McKinney, you’re losing some top-quality programs. But we’re going to find Mesquite Poteet and Forney and so forth will give you a run for the money.”