Plano's bid falls just short in state semifinals

AUSTIN, Texas – When Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” came over the public-address system in the middle of the seventh during the Class 5A state softball semifinal, the significance was not lost on Plano.

The song encompases the program’s long-time motto of “Believe” and was adopted as the team’s song after it mounted a seven-run rally against Keller in Game 1 of the regional final.

This time, however, Plano finished 45 feet short of making another comeback, losing by one run to Northside O’Connor, 3-2, at the University of Texas’ McCombs Field.

O’Connor scored its first run in the top of the fourth on a perfectly executed safety squeeze bunt by Brittany Stone. It added its other two runs on a sac fly and a double in the fourth and fifth, respectively.

Plano entered its final half-inning trailing 3-2 and managed to get leadoff hitter and team runs leader Kristen Miles to third on a stolen base and a sac bunt.

“It was like this is a team of destiny for the whole year,” Plano coach Cynthia Zea said. “I knew if we got Kristen on, we’d score. It’s been that way all year.”

Plano attempted a safety squeeze, believing it could tie the score with just one out. O’Connor pitcher Kenedy Urbany fielded the bunt and pump-faked to first, tempting Miles just far enough off the base to get thrown out on the throw over to third and effectively ending Plano’s season.

“I’m proud of my girls,” Zea said. “I thought they did great. The other team scored one more run -- that’s softball. Give us another inning, maybe we do it.”

Plano's first trip to the state tournament gave it confidence that the program has a great chance of making it back for the next several years. The team has just one starting senior and an abundance of returning juniors who didn’t seem phased by their first trip to Austin.

“They weren’t the least bit scared. They weren’t intimidated. It was like they were back at our softball field practicing. That’s what I was incredibly proud of them about.”

In a softball state semifinal game in which Plano allowed just three runs on seven hits, tallied six hits of its own and didn’t commit an error, there isn’t much change Zea needs to make on a possible return journey to Austin, which could very well be next year.

“Now this is like nothing,” Zea said. “Now they can come back -- well, I don’t know what they would do any different other than score one more run than the other team. That will be our theory -- we’ll try that next time.”