The District 9-6A baseball schedule never got so much as a chance to breathe before the COVID-19 pandemic set in, forcing the cancellation of what the makings of a hotly contested season on the diamond.
That included big years cut short for all three Plano ISD programs, which had turned in some favorable results in the preseason with Plano Senior and Plano East even picking up state rankings before all was said and done.
Here’s a look at few of the unfinished storylines within PISD as teams begin the build toward 2021.
Plano seniors starting anew
Over the past decade, the Wildcats amassed one of the longest playoff appearance streaks in recent Plano ISD history, qualifying for the tournament eight consecutive years — highlighted by a regional finals run in 2014.
Only one other PISD athletics program enjoyed a longer streak during the decade: Plano’s softball team.
The Wildcats’ momentum came to a halt in 2019 after taking fifth in 9-6A. Naturally, that near-miss became a rallying cry for Plano’s 2020 campaign.
Behind a 14-player senior class, the Wildcats’ bounce-back effort was coming along nicely at 10-1. Plano’s pitching and defense were in lockstep and head coach Rick Robertson was getting contributions up and down the lineup.
Senior Hunter Reid produced some of the top pitching numbers in the state. Senior Cole Foster had the look of a future MLB prospect. Senior Clayton Berryhill was in the midst of a breakout year as the team’s top hitter.
The Wildcats will start back at ground zero in some ways next season, graduating not just 14 seniors but several who had started for at least three years. Whether Plano can recapture the magic it had begun conjuring in 2020 remains to be seen.
East shedding underdog label
Speaking of conjuring some magic, the Panthers had one of the state’s biggest turnaround campaigns in the works before play was shut down. After slogging through multiple last-place finishes in district, East was enjoyed its best start under head coach Jordan Byrd at 10-1-1.
Even the team’s draw provided one of East’s more validating moments of the abbreviated season — playing state-ranked Rockwall to a 1-1 stalemate.
The Yellow Jackets were one of several teams that took its lumps opposite a deep Panther pitching staff comprised of juniors Colton Shaw, Ben Baker-Livingston, Austin Stanton and Apollo Cassimitis — all of whom still have another high school baseball under their belts.
Much like Plano’s Berryhill, East senior Shawn Thomas put his name on the map with some of the top hitting numbers in the Metroplex.
Whether or not the Panthers’ hot start would have translated into playoff contention in 9-6A is a question that likely still lingers for some within the program. It was as compelling a subplot as any in the district, and with plenty of talent returning for next season, keep an eye on the Panthers in 2021.
West’s dynamic duo
Although the Wolves’ 5-4 record might not looked as shiny as some of their 9-6A counterparts, there’s always a bit of deception in any preseason baseball record given the nature of tournaments, pitch counts and general experimentation in lineups and rotations.
For West, the record that mattered most to them was 4-1 — the win-loss mark when either senior Danny Davis or junior Nick Moore drew the start. Those two were the Wolves’ projected Tuesday-Friday tandem on the mound and gleaned plenty of promise during the preseason.
West allowed only four runs total in its five wins, many of which featured either Davis or Moore. Both had at least 19 strikeouts on their ledger and Moore was one of just 22 pitchers in the state to post a perfect ERA.
The Wolves’ offense remained a bit of a work in progress, but in a district where top-flight pitching is paramount, Davis and Moore were as stout a one-two punch as any 9-6A had to offer.