Not this time, Rockwall: Wildcats avenge postseason defeat, sweep Yellowjackets

Matt Welch mwelch@starlocalmedia.com | 0 comments
The Plano Senior baseball team had waited nearly an entire year for the opportunity that presented itself Thursday and Friday in the Region II Quarterfinals.
The exact stage the Wildcats’ 2013 season ended and fittingly enough, a chance for redemption against the same team that did the honors last year, as Rockwall edged Plano in three games.
No third game was required in the 2014 installment of the series, nor was any doubt left between the two after the Wildcats completed a two-game sweep of the Yellowjackets Friday night, 6-0.
“You get beat 2-1 in a Game 3 last year and [Rockwall] did so well that you just think that could have been you,” said Rick Robertson, Plano head coach. “The kids did a good job staying focused because this round had been in the back of our heads all year.
“When it got tough while working out, we’d bring this round up. I’m proud of our boys.”
The Wildcats unleashed a year’s worth of frustration after falling short against Rockwall last year, outscoring the Yellowjackets over the course of the series, 17-0.
After cruising to an 11-0 victory in Game 1 Thursday, Plano assured its stranglehold stayed intact after a first inning that set the tone both offensively and defensively for the Wildcats.
Junior Mitchell Hansen averted a pair of bases-loaded jams in the opening stanza, putting the first three runners on and then inducing a double play. A walk followed to load the bags again, but Hansen ended the threat by forcing Nick Lutzel into an inning-ending fly out.
“We put ourselves in a tough situation and when we worked around that, it gave our team confidence, it gave Mitchell confidence and Mitchell settled in,” Robertson said. “When he does that, he’s pretty dang tough.”
Hansen wouldn’t endure anymore trouble to that extent on the mound for the rest of the night, but the same couldn’t be said for Rockwall.
The Wildcats responded to their early defensive stand with three runs in the bottom of the first, including an RBI infield single by senior Ryan Robertson and a two-run single by senior Michael Davis for a 3-0 lead.
“I know it took a little wind out of their sails,” coach Robertson said, “but it’s an elimination game for them and we still had to play solid defense and not give anything to them.”
Hansen and the defense did just that, limiting the Yellowjackets to five hits and not allowing a runner to reach third base over the final six innings. Overall, Hansen hurled 5.2 innings of shutout ball, striking out seven and walking three. Senior Jake Fraze finished the final 1.1 unscathed.
The duo had plenty of run support, which only improved in the fourth inning on a fly ball by junior Austin Toups that three Yellowjackets converged on, but a miscommunication led to neither making a play on the ball and as a result, senior Connor Brady scored for a 4-0 lead. Defensively miscues of that nature haunted Rockwall all series in the form of six total errors.
“Things happen, for whatever reason, and we’ll take it,” coach Robertson said. “I know that’s not indicative of how good Rockwall is.”
RBI singles by Hansen and Toups improved the advantage to 6-0 by the end of the sixth stanza, as Plano met little resistance in its second go-around in as many years with Rockwall.
The Wildcats are rewarded with a momentary feeling of redemption, and a spot in the regional semifinals – the program’s second in four years. Up next is a meeting against either Austin Bowie or Klein Collins at a time and place to be determined.
“They didn’t talk about it much, but it was always in the back of our heads,” coach Robertson said, “and with who it was, we didn’t want to play that up too much, but it was the back of everyone’s head. It was just nice to get the win, whoever it was against.”
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