[By Joe Hale, Special to ETSN.fm]

TYLER -- You couldn’t have dreamt it any better, according to Zach Bassham, Hughes Springs' winning pitcher Saturday afternoon against Palmer.

Bassham graduated Friday night and punched his ticket to the UIL Class 2A state baseball championships with the rest of his Hughes Springs teammates Saturday.

Bassham, who finished fifth in his graduating class, scattered six hits, struck out six and walked three as top-ranked Hughes Springs upended Palmer 11-1 to sweep the Region II final series at UT Tyler’s Irwin Field.

Hughes Springs' Trent Shelton scoops up a ground ball. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Hughes Springs (35-1), making its second state trip since 2006, will likely be the top seed in next week's 2A state tournament at Dell Diamond in Round Rock. The 2A state semifinals are scheduled for 4 and 7 p.m. Wednesday. The state title game is noon Thursday.

Hughes Springs followed a 2-0 victory over Palmer on Thursday with a run rule-shortened six-inning contest Saturday. Palmer, which had outscored its three playoff opponents prior to the Mustangs 32-14, completed its season with a 32-8 record.

“We came in wanting to find a way to get two wins and get to state,” Hughes Springs head coach Kent Craig said. "(Palmer is) an excellent baseball team. We knew we had our work cut out for us. It helped to get the early runs.”

Hughes Springs scored three in the first inning, added one in the second, then put the game out of reach with six in the third.

Palmer's Chase Fulton hangs his head after losing to Hughes Springs. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Craig wanted Bassham to simply throw strikes. That's exactly what the senior pitcher did.

“We wanted to keep the pressure on by getting ahead in the count. Our philosophy was to keep pounding the strike zone,” Craig said.

“It wasn’t my best, but it was good enough to get it done," Bassham said. "I felt I struggled to find the (strike) zone at times, but they hit ground balls and our defense made plays. It was a total team effort for us.”

The Mustangs outhit Palmer 12-6. Eight different players had hits for Hughes Springs and seven drove in runs. Designated hitter Asa Gaul led the way, going 2-for-2, driving in a run and scoring twice, including the 11th and final run of the contest in the sixth on Palmer’s second error of the contest.

Chad McKinney, Josh Anton and Hunter Smith joined Gaul with two hits apiece. Anton had the only extra-base hit of the contest for the Mustangs, a double to lead off the big third-inning uprising.

Hughes Springs' Jacob Taylor slides back to second while Palmer's Judge Wolfe readies himself for the ball. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Hughes Springs gave Palmer starting pitcher Colten Richardson (10-1) his first loss of the season.

Hughes Springs also got to reliever Isaac Lopez for five runs on three hits in 2/3 of an inning during the third.

Trailing 9-0, Aaron Hunter came on to get the final two outs of the third, but a wild pitch enabled Chad McKinney to race home with the 10th run. Hunter settled in on the mound, though, retiring seven Mustang hitters in a row to get through the top of the sixth.

Palmer scored a run in the bottom of the fifth to extend the game an inning. The Bulldogs did it capitalizing on an infield hit by Tyler Lowe and a two-out, run-scoring double to the right-field fence by Judge Wolfe.

Bassham carried a one-hitter into the fourth inning before yielding singles to Cody Rhodes and Hunter Vasquez. He then struck out Brian Archibald and Chase Fulton to escape without allowing a run.


Hughes Springs pitcher Zach Bassham fires the ball to home plate during the Mustangs' 11-1 Game 2 victory Saturday at UT Tyler's Irwin Field. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Class 2A Region II Final
Game 2

Hughes Springs 11, Palmer 1 (6 innings)

UT Tyler’s Irwin Field

Hughes Springs -- 316 001 – 11 12 0
Palmer -- 000 010 – 1 6 2

Hughes Springs: Zach Bassham and Chad McKinney.
Palmer: Colten Richardson, Isaac Lopez (2nd), Aaron Hunter (3rd) and Ryan Conger.

WP – Bassham (13-0)
LP – Richardson (10-1)

2BHughes Springs: Josh Anton; Palmer: Judge Wolfe.

RecordsHughes Springs: 35-1. Palmer: 31-8.