HS Baseball Playoffs: Highlanders Dominate the Bears to Force A Winner-Take-All Game Three

By: Jake Wilson
| Published 05/10/2024


THE WOODLANDS, TX -- After falling in a one-run loss on Thursday, The Woodlands Highlanders (20-13-2) put on an end-to-end domination of the Bridgeland Bears (27-10) by a score of 11-1 to force the series into a winner-take-all third game on Saturday.

The 0-1 loss pushed unwanted pressure onto a Highlander squad that had been walking the tightrope of contention and elimination since district play. Coach Ron Eastman and his boys were prepared for the challenges that lay ahead, and their effort to start game two against Bridgeland showed sheer determination.

Caleb Holifield got the nod on the mound for the Highlanders, and as he had done all season, he lit up the opposing batters.

A sequence of three-up and three-down in the top of the first was highlighted by a pick-off of lead runner Caden Hinze, who walked on his at-bat. The signature speed of Holifield’s delivery to first has been known throughout the season, but a statement first out of the game set the tone for the rest of the night.

In an exclusive interview with The Woodlands Online Sports, Highlander Head Coach Ron Eastman praised Holifield’s ability on the mound as a reliable option.

“Caleb [Holifield] has been lights out for us,” said Eastman. “I was very confident that he would throw well, I’m pleased with his performance, and he did a great job.”

With Holifield working his magic, the silent Highlander bats from game one found their swings immediately for game two.

The Woodlands gathered seven hits from six batters through the first two innings. The immediate success allowed the team to sprint to a 2-0 lead after the bottom of the first and an astounding 6-0 lead going into the third.

Kyle Hubert, Cash Clayton, Gian Fernandez, and Izzy Vega reached home on their trips around the basepath, and the Bears were caught flatfooted against the Highlander firepower.

Four pitchers would see action for Bridgeland throughout the game, making it difficult for any of them to settle into a groove. The quick decision-making could have led to a stoppage of the Highlander hitting, but the red-hot bats failed to simmer down as the game chugged on.

Another run in the bottom of the third brought home Brady Breedlove as the fifth Highlander to reach home, and the lack of a response from the Bears highlighted the complete control held by The Woodlands.

“It was a team effort all the way from Kyle Hubert at the leaf-off down to Brady Breedlove in the nine-hole,” said Eastman. “Everybody contributed in some way, whether it be good at-bats, scoring runs, or getting the barrel on the ball.”

The Woodlands’ control on offense allowed the defense to constantly operate with a sturdy cushion of run support. The only blemish on the night came in the top of the fifth inning with the Highlanders up 7-0.

A lead-off single from Caleb Simmons was followed by a walk to Jake Webb to situate a runner in scoring position for just the second time for the Bears. The bleakness of the game saw some light when Trey Allen brought Simmons home for Bridgeland’s first and only run of the game.

Following their light defensive lapse to concede a run, the Highlanders hit the accelerator and ended the game as quickly as it began.

A deep shot to centerfield from Hubert signaled the beginning of the end for the Bears, who lost any remaining control they had as the bottom of the fifth carried on.

A lengthy series of six walks to only one out allowed the necessary four runners to come home for The Woodlands and end the night on a mercy rule, 11-1 victory for the Highlanders.

The Woodlands’ win evens the series at one game apiece to set up a final matchup on Saturday at Grand Oaks High School, where the winner advances and the loser sees their season end.

“The coaching staff is going to go in and put together a plan for tomorrow,” explained Eastman. “Obviously, it all starts with pitching, so we have to figure out how we might piece that one together.”

The seasons of The Woodlands and Bridgeland come down to a winner-take-all game to determine who will reach the Regional Quarterfinals and whose season will end in heart-breaking defeat.

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