Each season, in almost every sport, roster turnover leads to some uncertainty as the season gets underway.
But for Highland Park baseball coach Travis Yoder, this spring will begin with more questions and more challenges than any in recent memory.
A lineup that features five returning starters still has several spots up for grabs. And the Scots will navigate a daunting schedule that doesn’t offer many breathers along the way.
Still, Yoder is optimistic as the team looks to improve upon an area-round loss to Prosper in the Class 5A playoffs a year ago. That disappointment followed on the heels of four consecutive trips to the regional quarterfinals.
“The kids are working really hard,” Yoder said. “We’re really young, and we have probably our hardest nondistrict schedule we’ve ever put together.”
Specifically, of the 19 nondistrict games — scattered between three pre-district tournaments and three Saturdays in April —15 of them are against Class 6A teams, and 16 are against playoff squads from last year.
Solid pitching and defense should be strengths for the Scots, and experience will be critical. On the mound, HP will turn to right-handed ace Grant Kipp, who has committed to Yale. Others who could see time include Clayton Rejebian, lefthander T.J. Spackman, Cory Wanic, and Christian Clarke.
“Our pitchers need to do their jobs and pound the strike zone and keep us in the game,” Yoder said. “We just need to learn how to manufacture runs.”
The Scots have a handful of returnees to anchor the lineup, such as Kipp — who will play first base when he’s not pitching — second baseman Benner Page, third baseman Patrick Shearer, and outfielders Jack Kemendo and Wills MacKay. Sophomore shortstop James Henry leads the newcomers.
HP will play its home opener as part of the Scotland Yard Classic on March 8, and will start District 15-5A play the following week. Yoder hopes the difficult schedule will have the Scots prepared for postseason play.
“We’re in a tough district that going to get stronger,” he said. “Playoff success is just kind of a standard at Highland Park. That’s what they work for, and it’s instilled in them.”