Matt Welch email@example.com
Posted: Monday, April 20, 2015 11:45 pm | Updated: 12:11 am, Tue Apr 21, 2015.
For at least 24 hours, the Plano Senior High baseball team controls its own destiny relative to the playoffs.
In the first leg of a hectic three-game week, the Wildcats (6-7 in District 6-6A) took a convincing step in their bid for a return to the postseason on Monday, out dueling Plano West (5-7) for a 6-1 victory that nudged Plano a half-game ahead of the Wolves and into fourth place in the 6-6A pecking order.
“We’re battling to get in the dance,” said Mitchell Hansen, Plano senior. “This was big because [West is] a team in front of us, so to get the tiebreaker and get that fourth place is good momentum for us going forward.”
The Wildcats seized that momentum and then some in the third inning, which accounted for all six of the team’s runs and five of their seven hits on the night. Three of those hits came in succession during the frame, with seniors Mitchell Hansen and Graham Welch posting back-to-back RBIs to bump Plano in front, 2-1.
Plano junior Quinn Waterbury assured that slim advantage didn’t last long, blowing the contest open just a few batters later by parking a grand slam over the right-center field wall that padded the Wildcats’ advantage to 6-1.
“It just broke that inning wide open,” said Rick Robertson, Plano head coach. “We’ve finally started doing some of that, getting people on and getting that big hit. Not even a home run, but just something like a double.
“… Quinn’s a big boy. He’s a big, strong kid and he nearly had another one in his first at-bat. It’s huge to have somebody with that kind of pop down there in the order.”
Highlighted by Waterbury’s bomb, the third frame was all the offense needed for the Wildcats to stave off West, which failed to build on senior Bennett Oberstein’s first-inning RBI double that scored senior Joshua Wade for a quick 1-0 lead.
Instead, the Wolves found themselves at the mercy of Hansen and the Plano defense, which overcame the early deficit and allowed just three total base-runners over the final six innings.
“You feel like the rug’s been pulled out from under your feet,” said Kevin Clark, West head coach. “It’s tough knowing we have to grind back, especially when Hansen is throwing as well as he was on the mound.”
Hansen had plenty of say in West’s bats going cold, striking out 10 batters and surrendering only three hits in Monday’s win – including just one following the first inning.
“West always does a good job scouting,” Hansen said. “The coaches know me over there and we know them, so I knew it would be a little hectic early on, but you just have to battle through the game.”
The Wildcats managed to do just that, and even had an extra emotional boost in their lineup on Tuesday. Senior Cody Farhat appeared at designated hitter in his second game of the season, working his way back into action after suffering an ACL injury during football season last year.
Initially making his 2015 debut in Saturday’s 4-3 win over Plano East, Farhat built on that outing by going 2-of-3 on Monday, including an infield single that he legged out.
“[Farhat] has been taking BP for a while now,” Robertson said. “He just got released last Tuesday for game action. … He doesn’t have all of his speed back, which is understandable, but he can still run bases. The more pitches he sees, the better he’ll get.”
It’s the kind of injection needed for the Wildcats as they near the 6-6A homestretch, winning their second straight game on Monday and asserting themselves into pole position for the district’s last playoff spot.
Postseason race heating up
The writing has been on the wall for weeks and with just under two weeks remaining in the regular season, the race for the No. 4 playoff seed in 6-6A figures to intensify with each game from here on out.
Following Monday, that place in the standings belonged to Plano, which overtook a West club that suffered its fourth loss in five games. Jockeying alongside that duo is McKinney Boyd, also 5-7 in district play and winners of three of its last four.
Between those three teams, tiebreakers currently favor Plano, which completed a season sweep of the Wolves on Monday and already has a 7-4 win over the Broncos on its ledger. The Wildcats can add an extra measure of separation against Boyd, as the two will square off at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Plano, while West looks to pick up the pieces that same time at Lewisville.
“Is it over? No, it’s not over. Is it going to be a lot harder? Yeah, but we’ve got to get after it,” Clark said. “You’ve just got to let go of this one or it can snowball the wrong way, and we don’t want our season to reflect that.”
“We’re just trying to stay in the dogfight for a spot,” Robertson added. “We’ve got some pretty tough games coming up, so we’re just peddling as fast as we can to stay in it.”
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