West still the one to beat
By Kevin Hageland Staff Writer
Tuesday’s Plano West-Allen game was the District 8-5A opener, but it could just as easily been the final game of a playoff series as there were big hits, clutch performances and a decisive hit with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
That hit came courtesy of West junior Aaron Machbitz, who propelled the Wolves to a 4-3 victory with a single to deep right field with two on and two outs in the seventh.
The game was tied at 3-3 when Machbitz, who had struck out in his other two plate appearances, stepped to the dish.
“I was just thinking put it in play,” Machbitz said. “After how my last two at-bats went.”
Machbitz drove the ball to deep right, but it looked as though the game would go to extra innings as Allen’s outfielder had a beat on the ball. The ball continued to drift though and the Eagles were unable to come up with it as the Wolves plated the winning run.
“I was watching their outfielder the whole time because I thought he was going to catch it,” Machbitz said. “Then when it hit the ground, I was just really excited because I knew we had won the game.”
The loss negated a stellar pitching performance from Allen senior Jake Johansen, who struck out 11 batters. Johansen was pulled after walking the lead-off runner in the seventh.
“Jake pitched great,” said Paul Pool, Allen head coach. “He was throwing well, but he walked the lead-off man and you can’t do that. I decided to pull him because if he would have walked the next batter we would have been in serious trouble.”
The walk came to West senior Cole Towery, who then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by senior Barrett Beck. Towery would score one hitter later as senior Reed Dillard drove him in via a single to right field. After the second out of the inning, junior Ryan Ford drew a walk to put Wolves at first and second base and set the stage for Machbitz’s heroics.
“Winning breeds winning,” said Kendall Clark, West head coach. “And our guys don’t ever believe it’s over until that final out.”
The final frame was in stark contrast to the feeling West had the inning before as a 2-1 Wolves lead turned into a 3-2 Eagles advantage in the top of the sixth. The game was tied, 2-2, after Allen senior Easton Ryan drove a ball over the left field fence. Ryan’s shot was nearly identical to the second inning when he powered a homer off the scoreboard in left field.
Walks to junior Michael Packer and senior Jake Bolton put Eagles on first and second with two outs. Up stepped junior Chase Gambill and he promptly put the visitors in front with an RBI single through the right side to make it 3-2.
“Our players did what they needed to because we had a chance to win,” Pool said. “We just have to finish.”
Before the sixth, Allen had managed just one run on three hits against West junior hurler Andrew Blum, who struck out seven Eagles and was in line for the win when he left the game.
A similar performance was posted by Johansen. Before West’s last inning surge, the only time the Wolves could touch Allen’s hurler was in the second inning. And that was partly because of Johansen as he threw a pair of wild pitches.
West got its pair of runs courtesy of those two wild pitches, a pair of walks and an infield hit from senior Donald Plant and RBI single from sophomore Sam Roberson. Plant and Roberson represented two-thirds of West’s hits against Johansen.
But that performance, coupled with Ryan’s two blasts, wasn’t enough as Allen was defeated, 3-2.
It’s a tough experience,” Pool said. “But hopefully we’ll do better the next time we are in that situation.”
That next district experience won’t come for either team this weekend as both the Wolves and Eagles are in the Frisco Tournament of Champions. The time off from 8-5A will give both clubs a chance to reflect on how big the district opener was.
“It’s always good to get out of the gate quick,” Clark said. “If you lose the first one in this district you can get behind the 8-ball very quickly.”
Plano-East rained out
Plano Senior and Plano East were scheduled to start District 8-5A play Tuesday against one another but were deterred by rain. The game has been tentatively rescheduled for Monday at Plano East.