By Michael Finnegan / Special Contributor
WYLIE — A first-inning grand slam sealed Highland Park’s fate in the area round of the Class 6A Region II playoffs on Friday night.
Rockwall’s fast start carried it to a 4-1 win, and the Lady Jackets ousted HP for the second straight season.
Perhaps battling nerves in the single-game format, the Lady Scots (18-9) got off to a rough start. Rockwall’s first three batters reached base on a single and two HP fielding errors. The Lady Jackets (20-9) capitalized when Shelbi Court blasted a grand slam over the center-field fence to give Rockwall a 4-0 lead.
Pitcher Katie Bell and the rest of the HP squad settled down after that, shutting out the explosive Rockwall offense for the next six innings.
“There were two parts to this game,” said HP head coach Meredith Townsend, “the first inning, and then the next six. Katie got in her groove after the rough first inning, and we had runners in scoring position nearly every inning but just could not push them across.”
The Lady Scots had their best chance in the bottom of the fifth. Olivia Davis reached first on a dropped third strike and advanced to second on a throwing error. Davis scored after Lauren Jackson’s routine grounder was bobbled at first base.
With no outs, Sydney Thompson laid down a perfect bunt to advance Davis to second base. Grayson Rutherford’s infield single put runners on first and third with one out.
Rockwall pitcher Hannah Frank put an end to the late rally by striking out the next two HP batters.
“Other than that tough first inning, we played very well … maybe even better than Rockwall,” said Townsend. “Our defense played exceptionally well after those two early errors, and Katie pitched another great game.”
Bell, who started every game this season for HP, struck out four and allowed just six hits.
Despite the loss, Townsend was proud of her team, which won a district championship for the first time in the history of the program.
“To win district for the first time, and losing only two games in the last two months is unbelievable,” she said. “We had very strong senior leadership that we are definitely going to miss next year.”
The Lady Scots will return just three starters, but Townsend is excited about next season, despite losing several seniors who started for the past four seasons and were integral in building the program.
“We have a really strong group of eighth graders, some of whom will play a lot as freshmen next year,” said Townsend. “And with Amanda (Reenan) and a few others coming back, we will certainly be competitive in 2017.”