PLANO — Facing an elimination game in its Class 5A Region I bi-district playoff series against Plano on Saturday, Game 2 could not have gotten off to much better start for Guyer.
Three batters into the game, Guyer held a two-run lead after a first-inning, two-run home run from junior pitcher Suzette Palmer to right-center field.
Unfortunately, for Guyer, as well as the game started, it could not have ended much worse as Plano capitalized on some late miscues and pulled away late for an 8-4 victory, ending the Wildcats’ season.
“That’s ideally how you want to start a game is to hop on somebody, whether it’s a home run or whatever it is,” Guyer head coach Keith Medford said. “We stuck to our plan in that first inning. We really focused on trying to get at least one run across in the first just to let them know we didn’t spend all our energy last night.”
In Game 1 on Friday night, Plano took a 2-1 victory as both teams played a crisp game with a total of eight hits — four apiece.
Medford knew Saturday’s game would have to be similar in order for his team to have a chance to push the series to a third game against Plano, the No. 17 team in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association national rankings.
After Plano (27-4) scored three runs in the bottom of the second inning, the Wildcats came back in the third to tie the game on an RBI single by Kylie Miyata that scored courtesy runner Molly Dolezel.
But in the bottom of the third, Guyer’s Achilles’ heel this season reared its ugly head when a two-out error on a groundball from Katie Hart scored MacKenzie Velasquez to give Plano a 4-3 lead.
“We gave them the go-ahead run on an error,” Medford said. “That’s something that’s plagued us all year, and we know that we have to make better plays than what we did today on defense. When you do those things against Plano or any other team of that caliber, they’re going to make you pay nine times out of 10. And today they did.”
The Wildcats (20-10-1) had a chance to tie the game in the top of the fifth inning with two runners on base and one out, but nothing came of the opportunity as Plano pitcher Kat Batey induced a weak liner to shortstop and a groundball back to the circle to end the inning.
“I have no complaints about our offense,” Medford said after his team pounded out nine hits. “I think at the plate our approach was great. We followed our plan. We left a lot of runners on base [eight]. You have to give Kat credit there, she didn’t give up many hits with runners on base.”
In the bottom half of the sixth inning, Plano got some insurance runs when Julia Knight hit a two-run homer before two more Guyer errors pushed across two unearned runs.
“We just try to hit the best pitch, hit it hard somewhere and make people make mistakes,” Plano head coach Cynthia Zea said. “I thought they made some great plays on us in both games, but the more you hit the ball hard — it’s softball — something’s going to happen.”
Plano managed 10 hits off Palmer in a game that featured 19 hits, which was something Zea said she expected to see Saturday, partly because of the wind blowing out instead of in as in Friday’s game, and partly because of familiarity.
“Less than 24 hours later you get to face a pitcher again, so it’s like you’re hitting the sixth or seventh time through the order,” said Zea, whose team will move on to face Mansfield Legacy in the area round of the playoffs.
The Wildcats entered the top of the seventh with bleak hopes to extend their season, trailing by five runs, but were able to make things interesting.
Guyer loaded the bases with one out, and with two outs Miyata hit a rocket to center field to score Hannah Hodapp from third, but Dolezel over-ran second base turning for third, where Alicia Weber had been held up. Plano center fielder Kristen Miles threw a strike to shortstop Tori Seasor, who tagged out Dolezel to end the game.
“It was hard because we know we can make those plays,” Medford said. “Routine plays is what they are. We just didn’t make them. That’s what’s plagued us all year. It is what it is. We didn’t make enough plays today.”
With only three seniors graduating and a wealth of talent in the junior class, the Wildcats have a lot to look forward to next season with their pending move down to Class 4A, where they were a state semifinalist in 2010.
But Medford said success would not come his team’s way easily.
“The future is bright, but we can’t just sit back and pretend it’s going to happen,” he said. “There’s some very good teams in 4A. We’re not where we want to be defensively. We’ve got some holes to fill. We’re excited about having a core junior class, back but we have some work to do and we know it.”