Owls hold off Hurricanes for key 28-5A win
AREA TEAMS INCLUDED: Highlands, Sam Houston.
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Inexperience often is cited as a cause for teams that struggle, and it’s usually legitimately responsible. Highlands is showing that it doesn’t have to be a drawback.
The Owls (6-2-1, 4-0) have risen to the District 28-5A lead, which they shared with McCollum (4-5, 4-0) heading into their March 24 showdown. Having five freshmen and four sophomores on their 12-man roster hasn’t gotten in the way of contending for the district title so far.
“I knew they were going to be young, but I saw a lot of talent coming up,” Highlands coach Stephen Jauregui said. “I’m trying to teach them to do the little things the right way and just be competitive. We don’t talk about winning. We talk about the keys to success and process to being successful.”
Highlands won a tough battle, 5-4, over the district’s other surprise team, Sam Houston (6-5, 2-3), March 17 at SAISD Field No. 1. Sophomore pitcher Bryan Aguilar stranded two runners on base, squelching a would-be, seventh-inning rally from the Hurricanes.
“Sam Houston was really competitive, right from the get-go,” Jauregui said. “They came out with a lot of intensity. I told the kids to keep fighting and find a way to win each inning.”
Highlands scored twice in the first inning and had established a 4-0 lead before the Hurricanes notched their initial run. The Owls recorded the winning run in the top of the fifth and clung to a 5-3 advantage after Sam Houston scored two in the bottom of the inning.
“Sam Houston intentionally walked our leadoff guy, so we wanted to be aggressive,” Jauregui said. “We had a bunt-and-run going, so we got the runner down to second. We tried to come out and put a lot of pressure on them right away.
“We tried to catch them off guard a little bit. I don’t think we had any big hits, we just moved runners along the basepaths.”
Aguilar finshed with 13 strikeouts in Highlands’ only game of the week. A scheduled game against third-place Burbank (5-5, 3-1) was postponed to March 23.
“Bryan threw a complete game and ended the game on a pickoff play,” Jauregui said. “He had some arm issues last year and only pitched two games. This year, our expectations were high and he’s done well.”
The Owls have been receiving contributions up and down the roster. Jauregui said his challenge has been to keep his young team’s momentum intact with rain making their competition opportunities sporadic.
The rains left Highlands with three games in the week that ends Friday, Sept. 27 against Jefferson (2-8, 1-4) in a 6 p.m. contest on SAISD Field No. 2
“It’s probably our biggest week of the season,” Jauregui said. “Burbank’s a great team that’s hitting really well. McCollum has two great pitchers and they can hit the ball as well. We’ll just try to go out there and be competitive.”