HS Baseball Playoffs: Heroic Effort From The Woodlands Falls Short Against Bridgeland in Season-Ending Loss

By: Jake Wilson
| Published 05/11/2024


SPRING, TX -- In their final game of the season, The Woodlands Highlanders (20-14-2) fell 6-7 despite a near comeback against the Bridgeland Bears (28-10) for a shot to make the Regional Quarterfinals.

Bridgeland’s hefty defeat on Friday forced a winner-take-all game three to be held at Grand Oaks High School. The neutral site field played to neither team’s advantage, but early mistakes from The Woodlands gave the Bears an advantage.

Multiple muscles down the third-base line gave a bevy of runners to Bridgeland while securing only one out for The Woodlands. The early mistakes snowballed into an eventual three-run top of the inning for the Bears, who rode three Highlander errors into the lead.

Lapses on defense were unbalanced by the Highlander batters. Reliable pitching from Josh Livingston kept opposing batters at bay, and the shaky fielding from Friday was completely shored up by the Bears through the first two innings.

Still down by three, The Woodlands relied on the freshly inserted Jack Smejkal to kickstart the team’s offensive production in the bottom of the third. He reached base on an error by the Bears and was joined on the basepath by clean-up batter Brady Breedlove.

The tandem of teammates would complete their journey by reaching home to cut the Bridgeland lead down to one.

In an exclusive interview with The Woodlands Online Sports, Highlander Head Coach Ron Eastman spoke on the team’s fight through the opening adversity.

“I don’t know if anything worked in our favor today,” said Eastman. “I think we did a good job of grinding through it, and we tried to give ourselves some opportunities.”

Unfortunately, The Woodlands’ opportunities ran dry following the third inning. Livingston’s pitching rebounded to keep the Highlanders scoreless for the next three innings, and a revived offense recaptured Bridgeland’s lost momentum.

Austin Glasscock’s reign throughout the game began its biggest strides starting in the fourth inning when the lead-off batter hoisted a ball to the warning track for a double. He was joined by Caden Hinze and ushered home on a single from Benji Barrera for a 4-2 Bridgeland lead.

The momentum continued to build against the Woodlands as the game continued, with the fifth inning being a back-breaking inning that saw the Highlanders pull out all the stops.

Caleb Barry-Smith’s grasp on the game had slipped too much for Coach Eastman’s liking, and he was benched with two runners on in the top of the fifth. After his removal, two more Highlander pitchers were needed to silence the Bridgeland effort, but another two runs kept the lead inching farther from The Woodlands’ control.

A still-silent Highlander offense failed to bring home runners in scoring position. A three-up, three-down sequence in the bottom of the sixth put an immense amount of pressure on The Woodlands. Their only hope was to salvage a comeback from down 2-6 or see their season come to a bitter end.

Glasscock’s contribution of a lead-off walk in the top of the seventh seemed manageable for the Highlanders, but a head-scratching play from Erich Daigle allowed a fielder’s choice play to turn a typically easy out at the plate into a scored run in favor of an out at first.

The extra run ahead of The Woodlands’ batters made all the difference in deciding the winner, as the Highlanders would need five runs to tie and force extra innings.

A complete team effort spanning every batter in the lineup saw the Highlanders leave every remaining piece of themselves on the field.

Sensational swings from the bottom and top of the Highlander lineup gave the team a chance to tie the game if the momentum continued. Four runs with two out from Smejkal, Breedlove, Kyle Hubert, and Declan Magee gave a brief glimpse of hope that the team might have clutched victory from the jaws of defeat at the last moment.

But the potential storybook finish was not meant to be. A grounder to third base secured the final out of the game, and The Woodlands’ season ended in a 6-7 loss at the hands of Bridgeland.

While the Bears get to claim victory, a bright future provides a glimmer of hope for the future of the Highlander program. One that will be back to contend come next season.

“We’ve got some good leadership coming back, we’ve obviously got some talent,” explained Eastman. “We’re going to miss our seniors next year, but we’ve got some guys that will fill in and they should step up for us next year.”

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