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Lakewood Pays Final Respects to Highland

Division I: Insulted Bulldogs make strong statement but lose in final inning, 8-7.


LAKEWOOD — The "R" word was tossed around like a rosin bag all week at Highland High.

Respect is what the Bulldogs wanted. Respect is what they felt was missing, especially after getting hit with a wild-card game on Tuesday, which they won in convincing fashion.

Respect is what they finally earned Friday, though at a steep cost--the end of their season.

Highland battled No. 4-seeded Lakewood run for run, but came up short in an 8-7 loss in the first round of the Southern Section Division I baseball playoffs at Lakewood.

They started horribly, caught fire in the fifth inning, but faded in the end, allowing the winning run with two out in the bottom of the seventh.

The Bulldogs (20-7) basically found what they were looking for . . . unless they stared too long at the scoreboard.

"What more do we have to do to gain respect?" Highland Coach Mike Van Cheri said. "Other than win the whole thing."

Lakewood (26-5) won on John Banach's single to short left field that scored Brian Gazerro from third base.

End of game. End of Highland's season.

"I think we should have met these guys farther down the line," Coach Spud O'Neil said. "We knew about them. We knew it was going to be a great game."

Highland committed three errors in the first two innings and, not surprisingly, trailed, 5-1, heading into the fourth.

Things appeared bleak when the Bulldogs stranded runners at first and third.

But in the fifth, Highland sent 11 batters to the plate, rang up eight hits and scored six runs to take a 7-5 lead.

John Santor and D.J. Medlin each tripled and five other players singled to chase starter Joe Lakey.

"To come from 5-1 down against the No. 4 seed at their park, that shows what type of team we are," Van Cheri said. "A lot of teams would have said, 'OK, we're done. Let's let them win this game.' We're not like that."

Neither is Lakewood, it turns out.

The Lancers answered with a run in the fifth, chasing starter Matt Parris.

Parris, who signed with UC Santa Barbara, allowed six runs on five hits, striking out six, walking four and hitting three batters.

Lakewood tied the score, 7-7, in the sixth on a single by Jeremy Selga and scored the winning run off Jason Kubel (1-2).

"I wasn't hitting my spots," Kubel said. "I'm a little sad."

So were the rest of the Bulldogs. Respect, finally gained, definitely came at a price.

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