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Just as it appeared the Plano West baseball team was nearing its strongest Tuesday night, Plano Senior became just a little bit stronger.
Fending off a late charge from an opponent hasn’t been something the Wildcats (6-1 in District 10-5A) have been asked to do much of during district play, but it was a facet they had no trouble embracing when the going got tough in Tuesday’s 5-1 home victory over the Wolves (4-3).
We talk about eliminating the circus (on defense) and that’ll keep you in games, along with good pitching. If someone’s going to get one on you, make sure it stays at one and no crooked numbers get up there.”
“[West] is a scrappy team and they’ve proven that,” said Rick Robertson, Plano head coach. “You can’t let them hang around. When you get opportunities, you have to take advantage of that, and we finally did.”
Anything you can do, I can do better
The Wolves finally nudged a run across in the fifth inning following an RBI single by senior Kosuke Nishitani to trim Plano’s lead to 2-1.
Amassing just three base-runners total in the four innings prior, West put that many on base in the fifth stanza alone. In what turned out to be the Wolves’ most productive inning of the night, it took a mere half-inning later for the Wildcats do one-up their cross-town rival.
Posting two runs on two hits in its share of the fifth, Plano plated a pair of insurance runs by senior Ryan Robertson and sophomore A.J. Liu for a 4-1 lead to render the Wolves’ initial burst of offense ineffective.
“We went back to the style we had been playing for the last couple of weeks,” said Kevin Clark, West head coach. “We weren’t trying to do too much, took more of a team approach and just found a way on. We kind of went away from that early, got back into it but by then, it was too late.”
Ryan Robertson was key during Plano’s fifth-inning counterattack, chipping in at the plate and in the field. Right after Nishitani plated West’s first run, junior Josh Wade clubbed a high line drive that was snatched out of the air by a leaping Robertson to end the inning with runners on second and third.
Due up shortly afterwards, the shortstop belted an RBI double into the right-center field gap to score Liu for the first of Plano’s two runs.
“That was nice to see, especially when it’s your kid,” coach Robertson said. “[Ryan] has some pretty good ups and that was a great play that we needed. And at the plate, he’s been hitting the ball really well lately too.”
The defense rests
Although a six-run ball game is about on par with what 10-5A cranks out this season, that number could have been lower if not for a couple consecutive defensive snafus by both teams.
The Wolves fell behind, 2-0, after committing two errors in the first inning and the Wildcats returned the favor in the fifth with a pair of errors that aided in West’s lone run of the night.
The early mishaps weren’t indicative of West’s overall night in the field however, holding the white-hot Plano offense to just two runs and two hits through four innings.
“Our defense has played really strong for a couple weeks and that’s what has really put us back in these games, plus having better approaches at the plate,” Clark said.
Not their usual selves
Although West’s defense put the team in position to capitalize early on, the requisite offense never came, as Plano limited the Wolves to just three hits – their lowest output during district.
“[Plano] just plays hard together,” Clark said. “I take my hat off to coach Robertson because he always has a solid defensive squad. Their pitcher did a great job as well tonight mixing up his pitches and keeping us off-balance. He didn’t become a one-pitch pitcher.”
The Wolves aren’t alone, as Plano is allowing just 4.25 hits and 1.25 runs during its four-game winning steak.
On Tuesday, the Wolves struggled just to force balls into the outfield, which proved no easy feat against Plano senior Kenneth Tabor. Going the distance on Tuesday, Tabor didn’t allow an earned run and struck out seven for the win.
“We’re pitching the ball well,” coach Robertson said. “… We talk about eliminating the circus (on defense) and that’ll keep you in games, along with good pitching. If someone’s going to get one on you, make sure it stays at one and no crooked numbers get up there.”