DUBLIN — It didn’t take long for the spirits of the Highland baseball team and its fans to turn as gray as the sky Monday.
Lakewood scored four times in the first inning, thanks to five Highland errors, and rolled to a 12-2 victory over the Scots in a Division II Central District Semifinal, Monday, at Dublin Coffman High School.
“We’ve talked to the kids throughout the season about making the routine plays. We just did not give ourselves a chance in the first inning,” said Highland coach Travis Church. “If we make the routine plays with Cole (Randolph) on the mound, we’d be OK. We did not do that today.”
The tone was set with the first Lakewood batter, who reached on an error by first baseman Dustin Green. After a flyout, Bryan Large hit a towering shot over the left-field fence and the Lancers (24-4) never looked back. Four more errors by the Scots gave Lakewood plenty of opportunities and the Lancers took advantage, scoring twice more in the inning. The only thing that kept it from being blown wide open was a mental error by Lakewood’s Justin White. White was caught too far off first by Highland pitcher Cole Randolph, but another error by shortstop Jacob Ulrey allowed White to reach second safely and the fourth run of the inning to score. But, White stepped off the base and headed toward the dugout and the Scots were able to nab him.
That seemed to give the Scots (22-7) a little bit of a momentum spark in the top of the second. Garrett Ulrey reached on an error, but was forced at second on a batted ball by Ryan Santille. Dustin Green followed with a single, and then Artie McAndrew fouled off three straight two-strike pitches before singling up the middle, scoring both Santille and Green.
“These are great kids; they never quit,” said Church. “They’ve got a tremendous amount of pride and they continued to fight. That’s a tribute to them.
“That was a big hit from Artie, scoring those two runs. I can’t say enough about the way the kids fought.”
It looked at that point like the teams might settle down and play a solid, close ball game. Lakewood scored single runs in the third and fourth, one thanks to another Highland error and the other off two hits that never left the infield, but the Scots were still in the game.
Highland threatened in the fourth, but another mistake, this time a baserunning blunder, cut things short.
“We had runners in scoring position. We just could not get the key hit at the right time,” said Church.
The wheels fell off for the Scots in the fifth. Kyle Vaubel welcomed new Highland pitcher Dustin Green with a leadoff double, then scored on an infield hit by White. Green attempted to pick White off first, but threw the ball past Randolph at first, allowing White to move to third. Another throwing error by Green and a groundout accounted for the other runs.
“We’ve been harping on them all year to make the routine plays and they did not do it today,” said Church. “We ask our pitchers not to strike out batters, but to induce ground balls and let the defense play behind them. We didn’t play defense today.
The Lancers ended the game with three more runs in the sixth.
McAndrew led the Scots with two hits and two RBI. Garrett Ulrey added a double, while Austin Schindley, Santille and Green all singled.
Randolph pitched the first four innings, striking out one, walking one and allowing six hits and six runs (only two were earned). Green followed with one inning, striking out one and giving up two hits, while Griffith walked three and allowed two hits in his two-thirds of an inning.
“I’m disappointed with the way we played today, but it doesn’t take away anything from this year. We accomplished a lot this year. We had a great season and it will be tough to see the seniors go. That’s a great group of young men we’re graduating. They really understood what the program was about. Hopefully, the underclassmen have bought into it and will work hard to get better,” Church said.
Large had three hits, including the home run to lead Lakewood. White also added three hits. White also fanned four, allowed six hits and did not walk a batter in his six innings of work. Lakewood advances to the district finals where it will take on Olentangy, a 12-11 winner over DeSales.