It didn’t take long for the Plano West baseball team to go from four outs away from a perfect game to needing to hold off the tying run at third base on Tuesday against rival Plano.
But for any late-game heroics the Wildcats tried to muster in a contest that carried heavily implications in the District 6-6A playoff picture, the Wolves were in a special groove on the mound with senior Nick Moore. That was enough to deny Plano late as Moore pitched around a late jam to help West hang on for a 3-2 road victory.
That two crosstown rivals entered Tuesday tied for fourth place in the district at 6-6. West’s win moved the Wolves into a tie for third place with Flower Mound at 7-6, while Plano now sits one game outside the playoff picture and tied for fifth place with Hebron at 6-7.
Only Marcus (11-2) and Coppell (10-3) have clinched playoff spots, with the final two berths to be decided by either Flower Mound, West, Plano or Hebron. Plano East was eliminated Tuesday in a loss to the first-place Marauders.
“At the end of the day, it comes down to Nick still hitting his spots,” said Kevin Clark, West head coach. “His limit wasn’t high so we were able to stick with all the pitches we had been with all game. He had faith in himself and faith in the defense behind him.”
That paid off late after Moore had turned in some of his finest work of the year. The West ace had Plano without a single base runner for the first 5.2 innings of Tuesday’s contest. Clean contact was hard to come by for the Wildcats, who hit into a myriad of groundball outs on top of striking out six times total on the night.
“The main thing we had been working on with Nick was tempo and eliminating as much thinking as we can — see the pitch call, throw the pitch,” Clark said. “His rhythm was going. When he’s on that mound he’s mowing, and that was kind of the tell sign for us. That’s when we know he’s really on.”
Eventually, the Wildcats mustered a response. Plano broke up Moore’s perfect game bid with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning after a walk was drawn by senior Jacob Prokarym. On the ensuing at-bat, West committed a throwing error on a groundball that allowed pinch-running sophomore Eli Hung to score and trim the Wolves’ lead to 3-1.
One inning later, Plano got its first hit of the night after senior Logan Anderson lined a double to center field. Senior Jackson Peters followed with a double of his own to score Anderson and make it a 3-2 ballgame with one out.
After a brief conference on the mound, Moore settled in the rest of the way. He induced one more groundball out and a fly-out to center field to halt Plano’s late threat.
“We know [Moore is] a very good pitcher and highly touted,” said Rick Cremer, Plano head coach. “With guys that throw that hard, there can maybe be a little fatigue as you go along. We just kept telling our kids to stay in it and eventually they’d get their timing down. We eventually did but it was just too little, too late.”
Moore’s complete-game win included just one earned run allowed on two hits along with six strikeouts and a walk. He needed just 87 pitches to get there.
“He doesn’t just throw hard — he’s a pitcher,” Cremer said. “He had three pitches, including a very effective change-up. A lot of fans just see the velocity with him, but his change-up really kept our guys honest.”
Some early run support helped as well. Not long removed from suffering back-to-back shutout losses to Hebron, during which they were outscored 19-0, the Wolves on the scoreboard immediately Tuesday. Senior Chase Spencer led off the ballgame with a single and then found home moments later on a Moore double to make it 1-0.
That was first of two doubles by Moore, who went 2-of-4 with an RBI in the win. Junior Bryce Farlander scored Moore on a sacrifice fly later in the first inning for a 2-0 lead.
Logging five of their nine hits within the first two innings, the Wolves struck against in the top of the second after Spencer drew a bases-loaded walk for a 3-0 advantage.
“Last week was so frustrating offensively. We’ve worked on the competitiveness of our at-bats and knowing that if they put a good pitch in there that we’ve got to take a run at it,” Clark said. “In this district, just making contact isn’t enough. You’ve got to do something with it, and they embraced that aggressive mindset early on.”
The Wolves stayed in front the rest of the way and inched closer to a playoff berth in doing so. West, which hosts Plano at 7:30 p.m. Friday in its regular-season finale, needs a win to ensure a playoff berth. The Wildcats are still alive but need a win to ensure a potential play-in game with West, depending on results elsewhere in the district on Friday.
“It’s still in our hands,” Clark said. “If we do what we know we can, we can take care of our business and handle our own destiny. We know they’ll come out scrapping and that could create a crazy logjam going into the weekend. We’ll do our best to avoid that.”