By DAVID HINOJOSA / The Dallas Morning News
UNIVERSITY PARK – He's back. Highland Park's hard throwing senior left-hander, Clayton Kershaw, answered any concerns about his fitness by striking out each of the 15 batters he faced in a 10-0 perfect-game victory against Justin Northwest to sweep their Class 4A regional quarterfinal series. The game was ended in five innings on the 10-run rule.
It was Kershaw's first pitching performance in three weeks after he sat out with a strained right oblique. With more than a dozen pro scouts sitting among the capacity crowd of about 1,000 at Scotland Yard Friday, Kershaw overwhelmed Northwest (20-16) by mixing his fastball with a superb change-up and curve.
"I was a little nervous at first," said Kershaw, a Texas A&M recruit who is Baseball America's top-ranked senior prospect. "Once I got it going, I felt good...It was a great night, especially because we got to advance. That was the most important thing."
Only two batters managed full counts in Kershaw's 73-pitch performance. A handful fouled off pitches. He caught five of his victims looking.
"I liked the way he worked ahead in the count," Highland Park coach Lew Kennedy said. "It made it a lot easier on him. There were a lot of question marks with him, and I think he answered them all."
The Highland Park faithful gave Kershaw (11-0) a standing ovation after he struck out the side in the fifth inning. One well-wisher told Kershaw as he asked him to autograph his scorecard: "That was unbelievable."
Catcher Sam Gadd knew early that Kershaw was due for a tremendous game. Kershaw's fastball snapped into Gadd glove.
"That is something that I'll probably never forget," Gadd said. "I thought he was nervous at first, but once he realized he could throw without pain, it was lights out. They didn't have a chance. It was the kind of night when you can hear the ball coming. It kinda hisses at you."
Kershaw capped the performance with a solo home run to right field that highlighted a five-run fourth inning for Highland Park (29-5). Joey Hainsfurther had a two-run blast in the fourth. Justin Walker hit a solo homer in the four-run fifth. Hainsfurther, who was 3-for-4 ended the game when his single to center scored Ryan O'Dwyer for the tenth run.