In their final game for at least the next week, Plano Senior exited softball normalcy on a winning note Thursday against rival Plano West.
The Lady Wildcats, who trailed 5-2 through four innings, used 10 unanswered runs to turn a back-and-forth bout with the Lady Wolves into a commanding surge into the District 9-6A win column for the first time this season following a 12-6 victory.
The rivalry showdown, which squared Plano at 1-1 and West at 0-1 in conference action, marked a premature end to the high school sports week following Plano ISD’s announcement Thursday to extend spring break for an extra week due to growing concerns surrounding COVID-19 (coronavirus). In doing so, all scheduled games through March 20, across all high school sports, are suspended until further notice.
As PISD and the rest of District 9-6A prepare for an extended break from action, they’ll do so just one week into their conference schedule. As the situation gains more clarity in the coming days, district officials plan to meet to discuss the next course of action regarding rescheduling any games missed.
Beforehand, Plano and West were already up against a tight timeframe on Thursday, moving their matchup to 4 p.m. due to concerns of inclement weather.
The Lady Wildcats showcased that sense of urgency late in the ballgame, staving off a potential 0-2 start to district play behind a six-run sixth inning to seize control of the contest.
Despite West inducing a fly-out on Plano’s first at-bat of the frame, the next six Lady Wildcats reached base — some on their own doing, as sophomores Kailey Blackmon, Bella Bishop and senior Lily Ray clubbed consecutive singles to seize a 6-5 lead on the Lady Wolves, and others on West miscues as back-to-back errors gave way to a two-run double from senior Audrey McNeill to swell the advantage to 8-5.
“It was just about relaxing at the plate. There’s a big difference between saying, ‘I have to’ and saying, ‘I will.’ I think on Tuesday against Allen, they put a lot of pressure on themselves feeling like they had to do it,” said Justin Pipak, Plano head coach. “When you’re confident and feeling like you can and you will, it helps a lot and it became contagious for us tonight.”
The rally sparked Plano’s aggression on the base paths as well — moments after seizing an 8-5 lead, senior Olivia Gorman scored senior Natalie O’Brien on a sacrifice fly. As O’Brien scampered home, senior Maggie Robbins, pinch-running for McNeill, advanced to third base. As West junior pitcher Cynthia Ng turned her back to home plate, Pipak gave Robbins the go-ahead to steal home for a 10-5 advantage.
“When their pitcher turned her back, they were in a bit of a frazzled moment and I quietly told Maggie, ‘Go,’ and she took off,” Pipak said. “It’s hard for me to be super aggressive, but in a situation like that it called for it and it just helped put more pressure on them.”
It was a drastic twist of fate for West, which had scored five runs on seven hits through the first four innings to initially take control of the bout. Freshman Adayah Wallace and Ng led off the bottom of the first frame with back-to-back doubles for two of the Lady Wolves’ five extra-base hits in the loss, and junior Ariel Schachter gave West its first of the game at 3-2 following an RBI single in the third inning.
One frame later, Ng upped the count to 5-2 after belting a two-run home run over the left-field wall.
Ng was one of three Lady Wolves, alongside Schachter and senior Morgan Luster, to record multiple hits in the setback, while Plano got three-hit outings from Bade and Bishop. Bade added four RBIs in the victory, including a two-run bomb of her own in the fifth inning that jolted the eventual rally.
“[Bade] has definitely filled in that role in the three-hole and is hitting a lot better,” Pipak said. “In years past, we’d have her hitting leadoff or two-hole and have her bunting or just trying to move runners, but my expectation for her is to have her driving runners in and she taken that and run with it.”