Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Plano East’s hits miss mark as Klein Collins takes advantage, 6-3
AUSTIN — Plano East’s Jacque Anthony smashed a pitch over the left-field wall, but in foul territory. Teammate Holly Kern did it twice on Friday, turning on inside pitches and sending them soaring over the fence.
They weren’t home runs, but they were close. And so was Plano East, when it fell to Klein Collins, 6-3, in a Class 5A state semifinal at McCombs Field. Plano East had big hits and big chances, but Collins took advantage of its opportunities and fouled up the Panthers’ hope for their first state championship.
“Foul is foul; I don’t care how hard you hit it,” Plano East coach Karen Kalhoefer said. “If we get those between the lines, it might be a different ballgame.”
Collins (31-4) didn’t have the same display of power, but its offense was relentless. Collins scored two in the top of the first and pushed runners across the plate in four of the first five innings to take a 6-2 lead. Collins had 12 hits — 11 of them singles.
Kern, a Texas signee who struck out six, often jammed Collins hitters with her screwball. But the hitters muscled through it and put the ball in play.
“They are a very good contact-hitting team,” Kalhoefer said, “and they hit the ball when they had people in scoring position and we didn’t.”
Plano East (35-4) trimmed Collins’ lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the first when Chandler Cink led off with a single and Kern followed with a smash to the gap in left. But the Panthers left two on base that inning. Plano East also stranded two in the fourth, although Destiny Garza’s two-out single to right scored a run to cut the lead to 4-2.
Collins extended the lead to 6-2 in the top of the fifth, but Plano East was in position to flip the game around in the bottom half. Cink singled, Kern was hit by a pitch and K.K. Stevens singled to load the bases with one out. Anthony worked the count to full and then walked, forcing in a run and putting the tying run on base.
But then Sarah Morales flew out to the shortstop and Kern, the star pitcher and hitter who is the biggest reason Plano East made it to state, mistakenly ran off third base toward home and got doubled up at third to end the inning.
Kern said she didn’t know what happened on the play. Senior shortstop Rachel Scott, another Texas signee who along with Kern and Cink has started for Plano East since she was a freshman, tried to comfort her friend.
“I just don’t think it was our day,” Scott said.
Plano East’s day ended when Collins pitcher Taylor Grissom, who worked hitters with hard pitches on the outside of the plate and a potent change-up inside, struck out Anthony. It came after Anthony hit a foul ball that banged off the top of the light pole down the left-field line and another foul ball that cleared the left-field fence.
“I wanted them to keep those between the lines,” Kalhoefer said.
The biggest hits went foul, and so did Plano East’s final game. It wasn’t the Panthers’ day, but it was a fantastic season.
“Ultimately, I’m just really proud of these girls,” Kalhoefer said. “They’ve set the bar high for this program.”
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