Bottom of order fuels Plano rally over Keller

DENTON, Texas -- The bottom of the order for the Plano softball team came up huge in a 5-4 victory over Keller in Game 1 of its best-of-three regional final Thursday night at Pioneer Field at Texas Woman’s University.

Down 3-0 going into the top of the fourth, Plano rallied for a five runs with two outs, four of which came from Plano’s 6-9 hitters.

Plano began the inning with two singles from six and seven-hole hitters Jill Holub and Tori Seasor, followed by a dropped pop fly off the bat of Katie Hart that allowed a run to score.

The last hitter in Plano’s lineup, left fielder Chelsea Sartor, stepped in and drilled a liner back up the middle to score Seasor from second.

“I knew it was our time and we had two outs and we hadn’t scored the first three innings and we need a rally going,” Sartor said. “I did what I could and I laid off the outside pitches and did what I could to get the single.”

Leadoff hitter Kristen Miles kept the rally going with a single past diving Keller shortstop Carly Allerheiligen. The seeing-eye single scored Sartor from second.

Plano was given what would be the game-winning run on an error at second off the bat of third baseman Erin Lowell. The grounder took a long second hop that could not be controlled by Keller second baseman Azia Branson, scoring Miles from second.

Keller pitcher Katie Ramsay was hit for all five of the Plano runs, none of which were earned, and picked up the loss.

Plano head coach Cynthia Zea said her team is fond of the middle innings, after everyone has seen the opposing pitcher's stuff at least once. Zea also said she appreciated the work of the men in blue Thursday night.

“We had great umps tonight that if it was a strike, we didn’t have any crazy strike zones,” Zea said. “So they knew that they could wait on a strike and I could hit the ball, and that makes you a lot more comfortable as a hitter.”

Plano starter Katherine Batey didn’t quite live up to her coach’s nickname of “Ice” Thursday, allowing four runs -- three earned -- on 11 hits with no strikeouts, but she did what she needed to get the job done after nursing a sore arm this week, Zea said.

“She didn’t get her normal rotation of practice like she normally does,” Zea said. “So really tonight was the first night where she got going again. It was good to get her back in rhythm and still come away with the win because I think she’ll be stronger tomorrow than she was today.”

No matter who might struggle in Plano’s lineup, Zea said she believes her team’s biggest strength is picking each other up.

“That’s what’s great about this team, we don’t have a superstar. We have nine kids that, any night, one could pick up the top [of the order],” Zea said. “The top could do well and then next night the bottom could do well. That’s what I think makes this team so hard to beat.”

Plano now has the chance to take the series and punch its first ticket to Austin in school history Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Texas Woman’s University. Game 3, if necessary, is slated for Saturday at 2 p.m. at TWU.