Back At Square One: Bats Pace Plano’s Road Win Over Broncos

Lui
Plano Junior, A.J. Liu, pictured in previous action, went 3-of-4
from the plate and hit two doubles in Tuesday’s 7-4 win over McKinney Boyd.

Matt Welch mwelch@starlocalmedia.com | Posted: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 11:14 am

McKINNEY – The Plano Senior baseball team isn’t taking long to try and relegate its 0-­3 start to District 6-­6A to a distant memory.

Since stumbling out of the gates for the first few legs of district play, the Wildcats have won three straight to pull even following Tuesday’s 7-­4 victory at
McKinney Boyd (3-­3 in district) that served as a referendum on Plano’s potential from the plate.

“Tonight, I know that was our best job at two ­out hitting and two-­strike hitting,” said Rick Robertson, Plano head coach. “We hit all up and down the order
and put the bat on the ball with force.”

Outhitting the Broncos, 8­-5, in the win, Plano received hits from six different players, with any others who drew a plate appearance working their way on base in some other manner.

Of those eight hits, three came off the bat of junior A.J. Liu, who’s occupying Plano’s lead-off spot while senior Cody Farhat recovers from an ACL injury sustained last fall. Liu did a valiant impression of the former 10­-5A MVP, going 3­of­4 with a pair of doubles in Tuesday’s win.

“A.J. is a player. He was doing a lot of the same stuff for us last year,” Robertson said. “He just takes pitches and his baseball IQ is off the charts. He knows what he needs to do … and he’s been breaking it back out these last couple games for us.”

According to Robertson, production in Liu’s third of the batting order hasn’t been an issue throughout district. On Tuesday, that cluster got some help elsewhere as Plano initially surged in front thanks to some timely hitting from the bottom of its order.

With two outs in the bottom of the second inning, senior Austin Toups careened a triple to right field that plated sophomore Troy Lee and later scored on Liu’s first double of the night for a 2-­0 lead after 1.5 frames.

That advantage only swelled from there, as Plano led by as many as 7­-1 opposite a Boyd squad that siphoned through four pitchers on Tuesday, with senior Keaton Livingston saddled with the loss on the bump. Junior Quinn Waterbury added an RBI double for the Wildcats in the third inning, while sophomore Conner Allen rifled a bases ­loaded, fifth ­inning single up the middle that scored a pair. One inning later, senior Graham Welch scored Liu on an RBI single and senior Mitchell Hansen
found home after an errant pick-­off attempt by the Broncos for the final tally.

It marked a continuation of Plano’s budding consistency from the plate, posting at least seven hits for the third consecutive game after an up-­and­-down start to district play.

“I think we’re just getting better,” Robertson said. “It’s not that we were playing bad earlier, we just weren’t doing enough to win and right now, we’re just making plays.”

Tuesday’s initial offensive was needed as well, with Plano having to fend off a late rally by the Broncos, who scored all four of their runs over the last three innings.

Prior, Boyd mustered only one hit through four frames and never established any sort of rhythm opposite Hansen, who earned the win on Tuesday after firing 4.2 innings and allowing just one run on two hits.

“They had good fight in them and battled the whole game,” said Brooke Court, Boyd head coach. “We just fell into a bit of a hole early against Hansen, who’s a really good pitcher.”

The Broncos had more success against Plano’s bullpen, striking for a pair of runs in the sixth inning after a single by senior Will Hollis (2­ of ­4, one run) was followed by with a triple by junior Braydon Webb, who later scored on a ground out by junior Grant Restmeyer.

Junior Logan Berlof added an RBI single one frame later to trim to gap to 7-­4 in an inning that actually saw Boyd bring the tying run to the plate twice. However, Plano sophomore Zach Holifield silenced any last ­ditch comeback by retiring the inning’s final two batters on hits to Liu with runners in scoring position.

“I don’t think we’ve been getting the timely hitting that we need,” Court said. “I think we’re starting to hit a bit better in certain situations, but in our losses there hasn’t been much timely hitting with runners in scoring position.”

Now even with Plano at 3­-3 in 6­-6A, the Broncos look to restore some consistency at 7:30 p.m. Friday with a road tilt at Flower Mound Marcus, while Plano welcomes The Colony at 7 p.m. that same evening in non-­district action.