There weren’t many baseball districts in the state producing top to bottom like 9-6A, which sported eight teams with records above .500 and four that were state ranked prior to the season’s cancellation.
That included strong preseasons turned in by Allen and Plano ISD, and several of the key contributors for those teams sported numbers that stacked up among the best in the state. Despite the 2020 season’s abrupt end, TXHighSchoolBaseball.com compiled a listing of the year’s top 100 performers in a myriad of statistical categories.
The Eagles sat at 9-1-2 when their season concluded, authoring a staggering plus-82 run differential over their 12 games played.
Much of that production came from a batting lineup that was averaging 8.8 runs per game and logged seven games with double-digit runs scored. Three Allen hitters closed the abbreviated season hitting at least .440 from the plate, with alum Philip Crotts (.567, ranked seventh in the state), alum Brett Harper (.467, 67th) and senior Austin Beck (.440, 102nd) all making the list.
Crotts was among the area’s most productive players during the preseason, cracking the top 50 in the state in three other categories — adding 17 runs (24th), 14 RBIs (47th) and six doubles (21st), as well as 17 hits (65th).
Alum Cooper Huspen, who hit leadoff for head coach Paul Coe, was on his way to a big year as well behind 14 runs scored (62nd), two triples (34th) and 10 stolen bases (29th). Senior Evan Anderson wasn’t far behind with 13 runs (92nd) and eight stolen bases (62nd).
Alums Cade McGlade and Cole Latos were no strangers to extra-base hits, with McGlade logging a pair of triples (34th) and Latos blasting three home runs (seventh) and knocking in 12 runs (94th).
On the mound, the Eagles held opponents to two runs or less eight times on the year, thanks in part to promising starts for senior Brett Tanksley and alum Corbin Lingo. Tanksley, who has started for Allen since his freshman year, struck out 22 batters, good for 50th in the state, and Lingo was one of 22 pitchers to post a 0.00 ERA.
In what was setting up to be one of the area’s more impressive turnaround stories, the Panthers were ranked No. 23 in the state at the season’s conclusion at 10-1-1. Six East players cracked the top 100 in some statistical fashion — including what had the makings of a monster year for senior Shawn Thomas. Despite hitting ninth in the Panthers’ batting order, a spot he welcomed, Thomas performed as one of the top batters in the area. His .483 batting average was tied for 52nd in the state, stuffing the stat sheet elsewhere with 15 RBIs (32nd), five doubles (49th) and two home runs (24th).
“He had a breakout year. This is really the first time he’s had this much success,” said Jordan Byrd, East head coach. “He’s always been a good player, but he was hitting in the .400s, a couple home runs and 15 RBIs out of the nine-hole. He liked it there, didn’t want to get moved and just kept delivering. He was productive almost every time he was up there.”
Thomas had plenty of help elsewhere in the order. Senior Seth Myles crossed the plate 14 times — good for 61st in the state — and junior Zach Esquivel’s 13 runs were tied for 90th. When on base, sophomore Caleb Bergman — an all-state performer as a freshman — was lethal behind 12 stolen bases, tied for 16th in the state.
The Panthers also benefited from a deep pitching staff that featured big years for junior Benjamin Baker-Livingston and junior Colton Shaw. Although Shaw was big at the plate as well with a pair of triples (tied for 34th), his work on the bump amounted to three wins (tied for third) and 20 strikeouts (tied for 74th). Baker-Livingston, meanwhile, logged 19 strikeouts (tied for 91st) to complement a 0.88 ERA (tied for 82nd).
“On the mound, we were pretty deep and had some with really high strikeout numbers,” Byrd said. “Those two had really good velocity and really took care of their arms, which helped them pitch longer.”
The Wildcats were authoring a bounce-back year of their own with a 10-1 record and Class 6A’s No. 25 state ranking. Much of that had to do with a lengthy senior class, as Plano received contributions from upperclassmen old and new in pacing its strong preseason.
One of the biggest producers among that group was senior Clayton Berryhill, who was on track for a breakout year of his own after blasting three home runs, tied for seventh in the state, as well as 16 RBIs, tied for 19th.
“Clayton was kind of a new name, of course not to us, but he was really starting to put it all together. He was helping shoulder the load pitching and also hitting well right in the middle of our lineup,” said Rick Robertson, Plano head coach.
Berryhill wasn’t alone in producing extra-base hits, as junior Jason Hawkins and senior Hunter Reid both tallied a pair of triples to tie for 34th in the state in the category. Reid, meanwhile, doubled as one of the core pieces of a deep Wildcat rotation, amassing three wins on the mound (tied for third) and showcasing a staggering 0.35 ERA (tied for 26th).
“On the mound, he was throwing the ball well — as he always has for us — and he was hitting it well, too,” Robertson said.
Sporting a 5-4 record when their season concluded, the Wolves’ most surefire path to victory came on the strength of pitching and defense. In their five wins, West surrendered a total of just four runs, and much of that came courtesy of the handiwork of junior Nick Moore and senior Danny Davis.
Moore, who was named 9-6A’s newcomer of the year as a sophomore, built off his breakout year with some of the top pitching numbers in the state. Moore was one of just 22 starting pitchers in Texas to not surrender an earned run during the preseason and also tallied 20 strikeouts, good for 74th in the state. Davis wasn’t far behind, fanning 19 batters (tied for 91st).