Written by Matt Wixon
Plano East holds off late Hebron charge to earn spot in state tournament
ALLEN — Plano East was rolling along with a five-run lead, and Hebron still didn’t have a hit with two outs in the sixth inning. But Plano East coach Karen Kalhoefer wasn’t surprised after her team sweated out a 5-4 victory Friday to earn a spot in the Class 5A state softball tournament.
“We knew the push was going to come,” she said. “The key is just to withstand the push.”
The push came after Plano East’s Holly Kern struck out the first two batters of the sixth inning. Hebron hitters then started connecting — and finding holes — to string together four singles. Combined with a walk and a hit batter, Hebron trimmed the lead to 5-3 with the bases loaded and Erin Hill at bat.
Hill then ripped a liner to left that scored one run. Hebron’s Kylie Johnson tried to score from second, but left fielder Haley Wisdom fielded the ball cleanly and threw home.
It was a very close play, and the umpire called Johnson out.
“Haley is the littlest girl on this team, but she can really throw the ball,” Kalhoefer said. “Even through the wind.”
The wind was certainly blowing out at Allen’s softball field, and that helped a pair of homers by Plano East (35-3) fly out of the park. One homer came in the first inning, when Kern hit a towering three-run shot to left field.
“I was looking for that pitch,” Kern said of the inside fastball. “I really wanted to give the team some momentum.”
Kern did give Plano East some momentum at the plate, and as pitcher, she cruised through five innings without allowing a hit. Combined with Rachel Scott’s two-run homer to center that gave Plano East a 5-0 lead in the second, it looked like the Lady Panthers would cruise to their first state tourney berth since 2009.
But Hebron (28-11-1) finally got rolling in the sixth, and in the seventh, Hebron had the tying run on second with two outs. Olivia Martinez hit a looper to shallow right field, but Plano East second baseman Destiny Garza made a tough over-the-shoulder catch to end the game.
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