Plano East softball heads back to state tourney

As the softball regular season played out, it became a foregone conclusion that someone from District 8-5A would earn an appearance in the state tournament this weekend.

Plano might have been the favorite coming off a state tournament berth last season, but Plano East separated itself as the top dog in 8-5A after beating Plano twice in district play and then knocking another district rival, Hebron, out of the playoffs in the regional finals last weekend.

Now, Plano East will represent what many coaches in North Texas believe is the toughest district in the state in Austin.

East will face Klein Collins in the 5A state semifinals at 3 p.m. Friday at the University of Texas’ McCombs softball field in its second trip to state in three years.

East’s success begins in the circle with ace Holly Kern, who notched 26 wins this season with just under 200 strikeouts and a 2.18 ERA.

East is equally as strong on offense, boasting nine batters with averages over .300, two of which are batting well over .400.

Kern again ranks at the top of her team on offense, hitting just under .400 and leads the team in both doubles and home runs.

Despite how strong Plano East looks on paper, Klein Collins looks even better. All but two Collins batters hit over .300 this season, led by Laura Lopez with a .500 average in just under 100 at-bats.

Collins split pitching time between Taylor Grissom and Tayler Atkinson, with Grissom standing out as the team’s ace, tallying 14 wins with an ERA just above 1.00.

If East can weather Collins’ offensive force, it will make its first trip to the state finals since 1995 when East lost 11-0 to Pasadena Dobie.