Last year, when Highland hosted Lakewood in the Division II baseball district finals, it was an instant classic as the Scots survived 11 innings of hard-fought baseball to earn a 4-3 walk-off victory and advance to regionals.
When the teams matched up again at Highland in a Thursday sectional battle, the Scots wasted no time in making sure it wouldn’t be an equally suspenseful game. Highland scored nine runs in the first inning and never looked back in claiming a 13-0 decision in five innings, recording a no-hitter in the process.
“We call that ‘coaching for dummies’” said Scot coach Don Kline of his team’s fast start. “The boys came out and were very focused. To give that kind of a lead to a pitcher like Blake Jodrey puts a lot of pressure on the Lancers.”
Jodrey didn’t need much help in the game, as he only gave up one baserunner due to an error during four innings of work, but he got it. After pitching a perfect first frame, his offense made sure it’d be a long time before he got back on the mound.
Rider Minnick opened the Scots’ half of the inning with a single. Brock Church was hit by a pitch and Zach Pinkerton reached on a bunt single to load the bases. Next up was Kort Sears, who drove in a run with a grounder; however, after Lakewood got the out at second, their throw to first for the double play was wide, allowing him to reach safely.
A single by Hayden Kline followed by a walk issued to Zach Schmidt loaded the bases again. Cooper Merckling hit a run-scoring ground ball to second, but the Lancers committed another error in attempting to get the out at that base, keeping them loaded. Luke Cain brought in a run on a sacrifice fly to make it 4-0.
With two outs, the Scots really got the bats going. Adi Karya scored one with a single and Minnick brought in two more with a double. With the score 7-0, the Lancers made a pitching change, but the Scots were able to tally two more runs on a double by Church and triple by Pinkerton before the visitors could finally get out of the inning.
Minnick, Church and Pinkerton did a fine job at the top of the line-up setting things up for the rest of the team. The trio combined for seven of the team’s 14 hits, including those triples and that double.
“Hitting is contagious,” said Kline. “I thought the boys had good approaches. We have a lot of experience at the top of the line-up. We came into this game expecting a dogfight, but we came out and scored some runs.”
The team would add a pair of runs in both the second and third innings. In the second, Minnick drove in Schmidt and Church brought Karya home. Then, Schmidt brought Kline home in the third and Karya followed by driving him in with his third hit of the day.
Meanwhile, Lakewood couldn’t get anything going against Jodrey or Cooper Merckling, who pitched the fifth. Jodrey struck out three, while only giving up the one baserunner via error; while Merckling pitched around a walk and an error to strike out two in his inning of work.
Getting batters out is something Kline expects from Jodrey whenever the senior takes the mound.
“We’ve sent pitchers to Morehead, Nebraska and Clemson and his numbers are comparable to those,” said Kline. “He’s a good spotter and can locate his pitches. He gets good ground ball outs.”
The best of those was a hard-hit grounder to Minnick in the third that the senior shortstop was able to snag barehanded and throw to first to barely beat the runner — a play that impressed Kline.
“He’s an elite-level defender and has great instincts, but what we told the boys was that if you watched his eyes, he stared the play down. What we celebrated was his ability to control that play. He locked in and grabbed that ball.”
For Highland, both Minnick and Karya had three hits, while Church, Pinkerton and Schmidt both added two.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS