The Plano West softball team poses for pictures following its 3-1 victory over Flower Mound on Saturday. The win clinched an outright District 6-6A championship for the program and the league's No. 1 seed for the postseason.
FLOWER MOUND — Plano West head coach Mike Ledsome calls it the toughest out in softball.
Two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning landed the Lady Wolves on the doorstep of closing out their resurgent regular season in gratifying fashion opposite the second-place team in District 6-6A, but perennial powerhouse Flower Mound didn't relent so easily.
The Lady Jaguars had two runners on with two outs, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate opposite junior reliever MC Pollacia. But as has been the case throughout its momentous second half of district play, West had an answer.
One pitch into the ensuing at-bat, the Lady Wolves induced a game-ending groundout to halt the Flower Mound rally and pick up a 3-1 road win to capture the outright district championship. West entered the day just one game up on the Lady Jaguars for first place in the conference, needing a win to avoid a tie atop the standings.
The Lady Wolves finished with a bang — one year removed from going 0-7 in the second half of its district schedule, West ran the table this time around to finish 6-6A play at 12-2. Flower Mound sits at 10-4.
"We came in during August and decided to commit ourselves to this program and commit to each other. We talked about commitment and staying involved and working hard every day," Ledsome said. "I felt like we'd get better and that we'd have the talent to do it, but there's always part of you that never knows with a young group. But our seniors are unreal. They took it on their shoulders to lead the way and do all this as well."
FINAL: Plano West 3, Flower Mound 1Lady Jags put 2 on with 2 outs, but @PWSH_Softball gets a groundout to secure the win and the outright 6-6A championship. What a turnaround this year has been for the Lady Wolves, who ran the table in the 2nd half of district play. pic.twitter.com/vcAxzYhiki
Those seniors helped set the tone on Saturday. Senior Adayah Wallace drew a lead-off walk, stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. The Texas commit found home moments later after sophomore Izzy Dunn dropped an RBI single into shallow left field.
One batter later, senior Brooke Hilton singled to left field and scored Dunn for a 2-0 lead.
The veteran combo of Wallace and Hilton came through in the third inning as well. Wallace singled her way on base with a bunt, stole second and scored courtesy of Hilton's second RBI single of the afternoon, which boosted the lead to 3-1 — a welcome start for the visitors opposite one of the area's top pitchers in Flower Mound senior Landrie Harris.
"That's the mindset you need to have, because (Harris) is going to get stronger as the game goes on," Ledsome said. "She gets tougher, stronger and starts using that change-up on you. You've got to jump on early and hold on."
Top 1: @PWSH_Softball strikes early vs Flower Mound. Adayah Wallace draws a leadoff walk, steals 2nd, takes 3rd on a wild pitch, and then Izzy Dunn sends her home on this hit. Brooke Hilton follows with an RBI single. 2-0 West, 1 out. pic.twitter.com/xGRQEcMkmd
Sure enough, that was the case. Harris settled in and bottled up the Lady Wolves' offense over the final four innings. Following a lead-off single from West freshman Abigail Chunn to start the fourth, Harris and the Flower Mound defense retired 12 straight batters to round out the contest.
The Grand Canyon commit went the distance with six hits and two earned runs allowed over seven innings. She struck out nine and walked one on the day.
"She's thrown back-to-back seven-inning games," said Mark Larriba, Flower Mound co-head coach. "Her injury isn't one where it's a torn cuff. She had a rib removed, so it's just healing, recovering and getting back to where you're at. We've been careful with her all year, and she's really started pitching well recently. She was undefeated going into this game. She's done well and we're comfortable with where she's at."
As Flower Mound gears up for the postseason, one thing Larriba hopes to resurface is his team's timely hitting. The Lady Jaguars were one hit away on numerous occasions on Saturday, stranding multiple runners on base in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings opposite a bend-don't-break West defense.
Flower Mound was game early, countering West's two-run first inning with an infield single from senior Logan Halleman and a sacrifice fly from senior Katie Cantrell, scoring Halleman to cut the deficit to 2-1.
"West is a really good team. I felt like early in the game we probably weren't ready to play, but we settled in," Larriba said. "We just couldn't get the timely hits. That felt like the difference in the game for us. We had a lot of opportunities but didn't come through."
End 4: Plano West 3, Flower Mound 1Clutch 3rd out by @PWSH_Softball's Carra Cleaves. Flower Mound loads the bases up with 2 outs, but Cleaves racks up a K to get out of the inning unscathed. pic.twitter.com/3Gb8Aerhb5
West junior pitcher Carra Cleaves and the defense had plenty to do with that. The Lady Wolves' starter got out of a base-loaded jam in the fourth with a strikeout and turned away Flower Mound for two straight outs with runners on second and third in the fifth. Cleaves pitched five innings, allowing no earned runs on four hits with six strikeouts.
"Besides our commitment to each other and this team, we've committed on defense," Ledsome said. "We've worked so hard on that. After having around 100 errors last season, we've only had 40 this year. That's huge. When you can make plays on defense, you keep yourselves in the ballgame to win. We got a lead and held on with our defense."
Pollacia took the reins over the last two innings, logging two scoreless frames of her own despite a late burst by Flower Mound. Cantrell drew a two-out walk in the seventh and freshman Adison Bicknell singled to put the tying run on base. A groundout to shortstop followed, as West extended its win streak to eight in a row leading into the playoffs.
"This program has a strong tradition of doing well," Ledsome said. "The last two years have been rough, but I knew we had what it took to get back there again. It's a testament to those kids. They bought in and good things happened."
West opens its postseason later this week at a time and place to be determined against Prosper, but Flower Mound takes on Little Elm. The Lady Eagles and Lady Lobos finished in a third-place tie at 7-7 in 5-6A, opting to flip a coin for seeding.
Finish strong: Photos from Saturday's 6-6A softball showdown between Plano West and Flower Mound
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