LITTLEROCK — The Highland baseball team used a big first inning to take control of its Golden League game at Littlerock High School on Friday.
The Bulldogs showed patience at the plate and took advantage of miscues to score five runs in the top of the first and pull away for a 15-2 victory in five innings.
The different approach at the plate and early start was the difference after the Bulldogs had to rally for a 7-2 win over Littlerock on Wednesday.
Highland improves to 6-1-1 overall and remains undefeated in league play at 3-0, while Littlerock falls to 6-6 and 2-2.
“We played pretty decent. We could have done some things better, but in the end, we still won,” said Highland senior Erick Holman, a second-year varsity player. “We could have done things better in the end.
“We just tried harder. We knew that they were going to show up and come out and play and we just showed up even more. We came out harder than they did.”
Highland senior Jakob Rodriquez-Katz set the tone in the top of the first, drawing a walk to lead off the inning.
“It was a great win,” Rodriquez-Katz said. “We all contributed to this win.
“It was definitely our start. We definitely came out much stronger than last game. Our approach was different at the plate. We were hunting fastball from the beginning.”
The Bulldogs drew four walks and took advantage of five errors in the first inning.
Holman drove in a run with a ground out and junior Jacob Badillo hit an RBI single.
“We think we played well,” Highland coach Chris Paxton said. “It’s a good group. We got all 17 guys in, so that was a benefit. Jumped out and got a lead early and we were able to get everyone in, so that was key.
“Better at-bats and we had some patient at-bats, where we took some walks. We swung at strikes and didn’t get ourselves out.”
Holman hit an RBI double in the second to give the Bulldogs a 6-0 lead and Highland broke the game open with eight runs in the third inning, on seven hits and three walks, two of which came with the bases loaded to drive in runs. The first four Highland batters reached base and scored.
Highland senior Troy Lewis, who finished 2-for-2 with two runs, led off the inning with a single.
Rodriquez-Katz, a two-year varsity player, drew a bases-loaded walk with no outs and junior William Paxton walked with the bases loaded and one out.
Junior Christian Arreola hit a two-run single and Holman, who finished 2-for-3, senior Carter Wood, Lewis and junior pinch hitter Carlos Toro hit four consecutive RBI singles.
“We’re doing good as a team right now,” Holman said. “We are batting overall in average pretty good right now, so we’re definitely going to show up and bat and do everything we can possibly do to win a game.
“We can definitely improve on our attitude to the game, like today we were kind of messing around. We could have definitely taken it more seriously.”
The Bulldogs outhit the Lobos 10-4, but drew nine walks, compared to three walks by the Highland pitching staff.
After Highland took a 14-0 lead in the third inning, Littlerock rallied for two runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Littlerock’s Colt Hunter led off the fourth with an infield single and scored on a single by Saul Orozco, who scored on a wild pitch.
The Lobos loaded the bases with one out, but Wood struck out two batters to get out of the jam.
“We had a couple of players maybe took Wednesday’s game a little lightly and realized Littlerock is a very competitive team and they came a little more prepared to play today and not take Littlerock for granted,” Highland assistant coach Dan Gorman said. “Basically they respected Littlerock today and came more focused.”
Holman led off the fifth with a walk and scored on a bloop single by Toro, just beating the throw home.
“Obviously we didn’t play our best,” Littlerock coach Ruben Ortiz said. “We had a lot of easy errors. A lot of mistakes. When you have that against a really good team like this, you’re going to get the results you get today.
“It’s tough. It’s baseball, you’re going to have some little errors like that, but we weren’t able to turn the page and just move past that first error. It was just a trickle effect of another error, another error. It was like a snowball effect. We put ourselves in too big of a hole.
“We played them good Wednesday. Just showed our inexperience today. I think on Wednesday, we had an error here, but we still battled back. We stopped the bleeding pretty quick. Today we just couldn’t stop the bleeding. Once you start walking guys, you just start to over pitch. You start to think you have to get strikeouts now. You start walking guys, put more guys on. You get a hit here and there. It’s a trickle effect.”
Highland used three pitchers.
William Paxton pitched a perfect first inning, Badillo threw one scoreless inning and Wood struck out five in three innings.
“It’s definitely not our full potential, but we’ll get there,” Rodriquez-Katz said. “I feel there’s nothing too much. It’s getting a rhythm for the season. We’re a step away right now.”
Highland trailed Littlerock 2-0 entering the third inning on Wednesday.
“Coach Ortiz and Littlerock, he’s a good guy,” Chris Paxton said. “He’s exactly what Littlerock needs as far as a coach dedicated, teaching them to play ball the right way, super respectful.”
Highland had one game rained out against Knight and will play a makeup game against them on April 3.
“We feel good,” Chris Paxton said. “We’re tired of the rain. We’ve had four rainouts. We’ve got a busy week coming up.”
Highland is playing two non-league games today. The Bulldogs play in the 47th annual Elks Tournament on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Highland will play a two-game series against Eastside when Golden League play resumes after Spring Break.
“I think we just need to get in a more regular schedule, so they get a little more confident and get into the season more,” Gorman said. “We don’t think anyone has really gotten a chance to get their feet settled in and get in a groove.
“I think we have a lot more to show than what we’ve shown so far. I don’t think the kids have even come close to peaking yet, so we’re kind of excited about what’s going to happen in the middle and end of the season. One through nine, we’ve got some solid ball players.”
Littlerock will host Vasquez on Friday and play a doubleheader at Golden Valley on March 25.
The Lobos will resume Golden League play against Lancaster after Spring Break.
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