The closing moments of Thursday’s rubber match between the Plano and Hebron softball teams was a microcosm of the night for the Lady Wildcats.
Down its final out, Plano put two consecutive batters on base. Junior Bella Bishop was hit by a pitch and senior Darby Hickey singled to center field. Senior Casey Driver then had a 3-0 count to work with on the ensuing at-bat.
But on a night when the Lady Wildcats stranded 10 total base-runners, Hebron denied Plano any further timely offense by inducing a fly-out to seal a 3-1 victory at Plano West.
The win locked up the No. 3 seed for the Lady Hawks, who finished the regular season tied with Plano for third place in District 6-6A at 9-5. The two teams split their regular-season series, which led to Thursday’s seeding game to decide the district’s third and fourth seeds for the playoffs.
Hebron, which topped Plano 7-0 on April 1, picked up where it left off on the game’s first at-bat when senior Rylee Nicholson tripled to open the festivities. Two batters later, a groundout by freshman Lucy Crowder sent Nicholson home for a 1-0 Lady Hawk lead.
It was a sign of things to come for Nicholson, who accounted for the go-ahead run in the top of the fifth inning after a solo home run nudged Hebron ahead 2-1. The shortstop got on base in all four trips to the plate, finishing 2-of-2 with an RBI and drawing a pair of walks.
Moments after Nicholson’s long ball, junior Ashley Vaccaro capitalized on a wild pitch and scored to make 3-1. Both runs materialized with two outs in the inning.
Plano had previously pulled even with the Lady Hawks in the bottom of the second inning thanks to some timely hitting of its own. With two outs, senior Sadie Weiner singled to center field and scored on the following at-bat after a double by sophomore Penelope Hurtado.
Hebron kept Plano from mustering similar heroics after seizing a 3-1 lead. The Lady Wildcats stranded a runner in scoring position during each of the final three innings on Thursday.
Hurtado and Weiner totaled two hits apiece in the loss, with Plano racking up eight as a team. Hebron matched that hit total thanks to two-hit nights from Nicholson and sophomore Lily Craig and received a complete game in the circle from Crowder, who held Plano to one run and struck out four batters.
Her counterpart, Plano sophomore Jayden Bluitt, also went the distance and logged five strikeouts.
The Lady Wildcats will look to regroup next week during the bi-district round of the playoffs, although the opponents for both Plano and Hebron were undecided following Thursday’s seeding game.
Entering Friday, Allen, Denton Guyer and Prosper were all in contention for the district championship in 5-6A. Guyer wrapped up its conference schedule with a 16-0 victory over Little Elm on Tuesday, assuring itself at least a share of the 5-6A title with a 10-2 record. Allen and Prosper, both 9-2, will conclude their regular seasons on Saturday.
Should either a two- or three-way tie materialize atop the 5-6A standings, the teams involved can opt for either a series of coin flips or a seeding tournament to determine the top three seeds for the postseason.
The bi-district round is scheduled to begin May 1.