Baseball team ‘beats HP’ in area championship series


Shae Daugherty

The team poses for a photo following their post game celebration. They later left the field to greet their families and friends.

Editor’s note: TRL’s Austin Keefer rode with the baseball team on the bus for game one of its area series against Highland Park at Globe Life Park. The Leopards won the game by a score of 8-2 to take a 1-0 series lead before clinching the series the next day.

Playing under the bright lights of a Major League ballpark might seem to be a nerve-wracking experience, but the big stage did not faze the baseball team as they rode their bus down to Globe Life Park, the home of the Texas Rangers, to face the Highland Park Scots.

The mood on the ride over was extremely relaxed. The players chatted back and forth, told jokes, and got in the zone.

Once they arrived, the team walked through the players’ entrance to the stadium and got to take batting practice in the Rangers’ batting cages underneath the stands.

“It feels like I’ll be playing at places like this in six years,” senior Luke Finn said after taking some swings.

Even with the game time imminent, most of the players, like senior Cade Smitherman, were more enthused than nervous.

“I think we’re all really excited,” Smitherman said after taking batting practice. “It’s something you dream of since you’re a little kid, so getting to play here, especially this early in the playoffs, is going to be a lot fun.”

After they took their swings, the team strolled into its dugout for the evening. They got the Rangers’ dugout, while Highland Park took the visitors’ benches. After some typical stretching and warm-up tossing, the lineups were announced, the national anthem was played, and the game began.

After a misty first inning, the Leopards opened the scoring in the second. Following back-to-back singles by sophomore Ralph Rucker and senior Zach Smith, senior Colton Laurence walked to load the bases. With two outs, senior Luke Stine laced a hit up the middle, driving in two runs.

Lovejoy struck again in the sixth. Smith reached on an error, Laurence singled, and senior Jordan Yoder walked to once again load the bases for Stine, who hit a sacrifice fly to center field. Finn followed with an RBI single up the middle, and a passed ball allowed Yoder to score from third, making the score 5-0.

Lovejoy’s starting pitcher that night was Yoder, who was enthusiastic about getting to pitch on a Major League mound.

“It feels like it’s gonna be weird, but I’m excited though,” Yoder said during batting practice. After giving up a two-out triple in the first inning, Yoder proceeded to hold Highland Park hitless for the next five innings.

The bulk of the game’s excitement came in the seventh inning. Rucker hit a one-out single to left, and advanced to second on a balk. Two batters later, Laurence belted a single to right. Rucker darted home and was safe on a play at the plateYoder followed with a triple, making it 7-0, and the two-out rally was capped off with another RBI single from Stine, making it 8-0.

In the latter half of the inning, Highland Park’s bats finally thawed two outs away from defeat. After drawing a walk, a double made it 8-1. Yoder struck out the next batter, but the next Scot tripled to right-center field, chalking up another run. Finally, Yoder induced a groundout to Finn at second base, sealing the Leopards’ 8-2 win.

Yoder finished his complete game with two runs on three hits, along with seven strikeouts and one walk. For his part, Stine drove him four of the Leopards’ eight runs. Rucker, Smith, and Laurence each had two runs scored, and every batter in Lovejoy’s starting lineup reached base at least once.

After shaking hands and thanking the fans, who were lively and animated throughout the game, the team headed back for the long drive home. The ride was marked by the traditional raising of the right fist during the playing of “Sweet Victory” from “Spongebob Squarepants.”