PLANO — The Plano softball team has enjoyed its share of comeback wins during a hotly contested District 6-6A campaign. On Thursday, the Lady Wildcats got to lead the dance for a change.
Plano (7-4) pounced for four runs in the first inning and never looked back — leading for the remainder of the ballgame and producing its largest run total in district along the way in an 11-5 victory over the Lady Farmers (3-8).
With one week to mull over their first back-to-back losses in 6-6A play, the Lady Wildcats rebounded in a big way on Thursday behind 14 hits, including home runs by senior Darby Hickey and junior Bella Bishop.
“They had a rough week and we’ve been challenging them all week to have their at-bats and be aggressive,” said KK Stevens, Plano assistant coach. “If there’s a strike, take it and swing at it. I thought they did a great job controlling their at-bats. We saw a lot of pitches and I thought they did a great job being selective.”
The Lady Wildcats channeled that aggression all evening for just their third double-digit scoring effort of the season, despite Lewisville being the first to crack the scoreboard on Thursday.
The Lady Farmers found some timely offense early, riding the first of two home runs by senior Riley Haney to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Plano didn’t wait long to respond. Seven of the first eight Lady Wildcats at the plate reached base, countering with four runs along the way. Seniors Casey Driver and Sadie Weiner logged back-to-back RBI singles, which gave way to a two-run single by freshman Rachel Newby for a 4-2 advantage.
Despite the early barrage, Plano didn’t cool off from the plate. The Lady Wildcats totaled eight hits between the third and fifth innings — five of which went for extra bases. That included doubles from Driver, sophomore Jayden Bluitt and senior Mackenzie Ridley on top of the long balls from Hickey and Bishop.
Hickey went deep in the fourth inning with a two-run blast over the left-field wall to up the lead to 8-3 and Bishop polished off the offensive with a three-run shot to center field for an 11-4 cushion in the fifth stanza.
It was a far cry from how Plano had conducted its business of late, scoring go-ahead runs in the fifth inning or later in their previous four district wins.
“The thing I told them I was most proud of was how we got down 2-0 and came right back to score four, and they were relentless afterwards,” Stevens said. “That’s the game plan — whatever happens, we’ll respond and be better for it, and they did a fantastic job at that tonight.”
After scoring twice in the first inning, the Lady Farmers plated additional runs in the fourth and fifth frames courtesy of RBIs from sophomore Rylee Brice and senior Erin Bonehill. Haney, who went 2-of-3 with three RBIs, clubbed her second homer in the seventh inning to cap the scoring.
It wasn’t enough to keep pace with a Plano lineup that received multiple hits from five batters. Driver led the effort with a 3-of-4 outing from the plate, while sophomore Jillian Grubenhoff, Bishop, Hickey and Ridley all had two hits in the win.
Bluitt was credited with the victory in the circle after pitching seven innings and allowing just two earned runs.
Plano’s win comes at a pivotal time, maintaining a grasp on the fourth playoff spot in 6-6A despite mounting challenges elsewhere. Coppell sits just two games back of the Lady Wildcats at 5-6 and boosted its hopes with an 8-5 win over third-place Hebron on Wednesday.
Plano holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cowgirls with just three games to play, meaning a win Saturday over rival Plano East would clinch a postseason berth for the Lady Wildcats.
“We’re just taking it one game at a time,” Stevens said. “We’re not focusing on whatever happens two weeks from now. It’s all about every game as it comes. We’ll enjoy this one tonight and then it’s back in tomorrow to begin preparing for East.”
Thursday’s loss also clinched a season sweep for Plano over Lewisville, eliminating the Lady Farmers from playoff contention in the process. Lewisville continues its campaign at 11 a.m. Saturday against Coppell.