Defending Champion Pleasant Grove Advances to Third Class 3A State Title Game in Four Years with 7-3 Victory Over Lubbock Cooper
AUSTIN -- If Pleasant Grove's Class 3A state semifinal win Wednesday against Lubbock Cooper is any indication, the Hawks might extend their streak of six consecutive state tournaments in coming seasons.
Freshman Joe Pearlman and sophomore Jarod Bayless played critical roles in defending state champion Pleasant Grove's 7-3 victory at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. The Hawks, state champions in 2010 and 2012, play Silsbee or LaGrange in Thursday's 6:30 p.m. state title game.
Pearlman, PG's third baseman, was 2-for-3 with three RBIs, one run scored, and one walk, a bases-loaded base on balls that stretched the Hawks' lead to 5-2 in the top of the fifth.
"He's a freshman that's been starting since district started and he's never been a guy that I thought I had to sit down and say, 'OK this is how it's gonna be. You might get tight. You might not be able to handle it here,'" said PG coach Craig Jones of Pearlman. "That guy, he's mature and his baseball knowledge is excellent. He knows the game and he stepped up today."
After Pleasant Grove (28-13) scored four runs on two hits and two Cooper errors in the top of the second, Bayless (7-4) relieved senior starting pitcher Dalton Willige in the bottom of the inning with the bases loaded and no outs. Bayless limited the damage to two runs to maintain a 4-2 PG lead.
He didn't allow Cooper (31-11) to get on the board again until the bottom of the seventh and finished with four strikeouts, one walk in five innings, allowing a lone earned run on four hits. Junior Dylan Silvey relieved him and pitched the final three outs.
"It kind got tight there (in the second), but what we did do, we were in trouble there with the bases loaded and nobody out and we just gave up two. That's just damage control there," Jones said. "The big stage will happen to you sometimes, but the main thing we did was we controlled our emotions pretty well, and I think the big stage got to their pitchers some with the wildness they had."
Cooper pitchers Ryan Moseley and Scotland Church, who entered Wednesday's state semifinal with a combined record of 19-2, walked 10 Pleasant Grove batters. Both displayed good velocity but lacked control the entire afternoon.
Moseley allowed five runs (three earned) on four hits with two strikeouts and six walks in the game's first four innings. Almost half (43) of his 90 pitches were balls. Church yielded two earned runs on two hits with two strikeouts and four walks in three frames. He threw 28 balls in 60 pitches.
Bayless, on the other hand, threw 50 strikes in 77 pitches.
Pearlman had Pleasant Grove's only two-hit performance, but Casey Rayburn and Cason Cordray had RBI singles and Ty Harp drove in a run. Trey Jeans walked three times and scored once. Alex Alsup and Silvey each had a single.
Cooper's Tanner Hahn and Chase Freeman had two hits apiece, including Hahn's double. Chandler Patterson's RBI seventh-inning double cut PG's lead to 7-3, but Silvey got a groundout and a strikeout looking to end the game.
Known for playing smallball, Pleasant Grove executed the scheme perfectly in the second inning.
The Hawks scored four runs on two Cooper errors and only two hits, one of which was an RBI squeeze bunt by Harp. Pearlman started the four-run spurt with his first of two RBI singles.
Cooper's biggest threat came in the bottom of the inning when Willige yielded back-to-back singles to start the frame. An error then loaded the bases and prompted Jones to replace Willige with Bayless, who struck out the first batter he faced.
Freeman then got Cooper on the board with an RBI single and Ty Parr followed with an RBI sacrifice fly to right to cut the margin to 4-2, but Bayless induced to a Church flyout to center to end the threat.
Pleasant Grove added two insurance runs in the top of the seventh thanks to Cason Cordray's RBI single on a popup to second that Cooper lost in the sun and Pearlman's second RBI single of the game.
Jones said it's possible that Willige, who allowed two earned runs on two hits and two walks in one inning, will be available to pitch in Thursday's state championship if needed. He entered Wednesday's contest with a 5-0 record.
Pleasant Grove 7, Lubbock Cooper 3
UFCU Disch-Falk Field, Austin
Pleasant Grove (28-13) -- 040 010 2 -- 7 6 2
Lubbock Cooper (31-11) -- 020 000 1 -- 3 7 2
PG -- Dalton Willige, Jarod Bayless (2nd), Dylan Silvey (7th) and Cason Cordray
LC -- Ryan Moseley, Scotland Church (5th) and Cole Goolsby, Stanton Keane
WP -- Jarod Bayless (7-4)
LP -- Ryan Moseley (10-2)
2B -- LC: Tanner Hahn, Chandler Patterson