Earning your stripes: Plano's Farhat paces extra-inning win over Wolves
The Plano Senior baseball team needed 7.1 innings before breaking its silence Friday night.
And credit the team's least experienced player for getting the ball rolling in a 2-1 extra-inning victory over Plano West that capped each team's first half of District 8-5A play.
"All the defense being played in that game was amazing," said Rick Robertson, Plano head coach. "All the great plays their kids made and our kids made, the pitching was just excellent. I guess it was a typical Plano-Plano West ball game.
"I thought it was so important for us to get this win. There was a lot riding on this one on both sides."
After seven innings, the Wildcats (5-2 in district) and Wolves (2-5) had combined for five hits and 10 baserunners. Plano had mustered just two hits and put four on base.
Enter freshman Cody Farhat, playing in just his second varsity game.
That made little difference though, as the right fielder required six pitches from senior Garrett Bruce before depositing the seventh into deep left field and just over the West scoreboard for a solo home run that broke a 0-0 stalemate.
"I was battling, trying to get on because I hadn't gotten on base yet," Farhat said. "I just happened to come through ... It's crazy. I couldn't slow down running as soon as I hit the ball."
The hit proved contagious, with junior Brad Hoeler ripping a double off Bruce. One batter later, Hoeler crossed home after senior Matt McLean took the first pitch from senior Brad Alexander deep into the left-center gap for a 2-0 lead.
The Wolves didn't go quietly into the night, mustering their own flurry off Plano senior Connor Reed in the bottom of the eighth. Senior Austin McDonald and junior Billy McKinney, who went 2-of-4 on the night, posted back-to-back singles that set the table for an RBI single by junior Connor Smith that scored McDonald and put runners on the corners for junior Mason Gentry.
Now batting opposite senior Max Negoslawski, Gentry ripped the ball down the third-base line, fielded by Hoeler and slung to sophomore Ryan Robertson, who zipped the ball to an outstretched Ryan Thomas for the game-ending double play.
"I didn't see it, but we had just talked about getting a grounder to end it," Robertson said. "It looked awesome to me and it was a heck of a turn. Brad made a heck of a play, Ryan made a heck of a play and it was just great on all ends to end it."
The frantic finish capped a matchup that saw neither team make a push for the first seven innings.
Bruce and Reed had a say in the matter, with each tossing more than seven innings.
Bruce hurled 7.2 innings, allowing four hits and two runs while striking out eight. Reed countered with 7.1 innings pitched and five hits, one run and six strikeouts.
"We both struggled a bit at the plate, but I think the pitchers had a heck of a lot to do with that," Robertson said. "When we did square a ball up, someone made a play. It was just a great ball game all around."
The Wolves had ample chances along the way, capping three innings with runners in scoring position. The closest the team came was in the fifth after senior Brad Hecker advanced to third following a single from junior Aaron Draper, who went 2-of-4.
West didn't advance any further after a MacDonald pop-out.
Until the eighth inning, Bruce and Company largely held the Wildcats in check, not so much as allowing a runner to third base with only freshman Mitchell Hansen proving fortunate enough to grace second following a stolen base.
Nevertheless, the Wildcats bounced back from Tuesday's 6-1 loss to Plano East and maintained a share of first place in 8-5A entering the district's midpoint.
A road tilt against Allen at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday begins the second phase of district play while the Wolves will play host to Lewisville.
"It's absolutely crazy is what it is," Robertson said. "I know it's exciting for everyone, but for us as coaches and players it's nuts. You have to bring it every night, which we expected. You're going to take some in this district and it's going to be a wild second half."