La Grange Beats Pleasant Grove 10-2 in Class 3A Baseball State Championship
AUSTIN -- For the second time in three seasons, Pleasant Grove's bid for back-to-back Class 3A state championships fell short.
Unlike 2011, when PG lost in the state semifinals, the Hawks reached the state championship round, but La Grange was waiting. The Leopards assembled big innings late in the game to pull away for a 10-2 state championship victory at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Thursday night.
The season ended on a sour note, but Pleasant Grove constructed its sixth consecutive state tournament appearance, breaking its own state record. The Hawks started the season 10-10 before winning 18 of 21 games, including Wednesday afternoon's 7-3 state semifinal victory against Lubbock Cooper, to reach Thursday night's title bout, the Hawks' third appearance in four years after winning the crown in 2010 and 2012.
"Nobody believed in us except for those 16 players and me and my three coaches," said Pleasant Grove coach Craig Jones, who has overseen the Hawks' entire record-setting run of state tournament appearances. "I told them that I believed in them from the get-go. If we had come out of the gates working like we were after we reached the 10-10 point, there's no telling where we'd be. We came that short in the championship game and had a chance to win it and we let that slip away the first month of the season. ... But I'm super proud of them. That's what I told them. They took me on a hell of a ride. I've been down here six times and I guess we've won two of them, but this was a hell of a ride this time even though we finished second."
La Grange (26-9), which won its fourth state championship in its eighth trip to the state tournament, distanced itself from Pleasant Grove (28-14) with nine runs in a three-inning span starting in the fourth.
The Leopards got help from PG with two fourth-inning runs on no hits. A pair of walks, two fielder's choices, and a wild pitch plated the runs to give La Grange a 3-1 lead.
Then came a five-run fifth that decided the game. Landon Gerik and Tanner Fritsch's two-run doubles stretched the Leopards' lead to 8-1. They came after consecutive hit-by-pitches and Dalton Burton's RBI single that scored Logan Vinklarek, who got on thanks to a one-out triple off the right-field wall.
Vinklarek was the game's Most Valuable Player, going 2-for-2 with the aforementioned triple and run, an RBI, and a walk. He also pitched a complete game, yielding two earned runs on five hits with one strikeout, three walks, and one hit-by-pitch.
Pleasant Grove's Dylan Silvey led off the top of the sixth with a walk and later scored during an inning-ending rundown to cut La Grange's lead to 8-2, but the Leopards got it back plus another in the bottom of the inning on Burton's RBI single. Burton then scored on an error for a 10-2 advantage.
Fritsch, La Grange's leadoff hitter, was 3-for-4 with a double, two RBIs, and one run. Burton went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs, while Austin Colon had one RBI.
Silvey had Pleasant Grove's lone two-hit night. He also scored once and walked once.
Pleasant Grove starting pitcher Trey Jeans allowed one earned run on three hits with four strikeouts and three walks in three innings. Silvey relieved him, but yielded seven earned runs in 1 1/3 innings. La Grange scored two unearned runs off Marshall McPherson in his 2/3 of an inning. Dalton Willige, who started PG's semifinal against Lubbock Cooper, pitched a scoreless inning and struck out one.
Pleasant Grove led early via its usual smallball style.
The Hawks scored a run in the top of the first when Alex Alsup came around following his hit-by-pitch to lead off the game. A groundout and an error pushed Alsup to third, where Ty Harp knocked him in with another groundout.
La Grange tied the score 1-1 in the bottom of the first when Vinklarek's sacrifice fly to right field plated Fritsch, who had the first of two leadoff singles for the Leopards to start the contest.
After coaching Pleasant Grove to its sixth consecutive state tournament, Jones put in perspective what the Hawks' tradition has meant to players and coaches over the years.
"This hurts because I wanna win all of them. You finisher runner-up, that's not why I'm in this business. I coach to win them all," Jones said. "But it's great. For me and my coaching staff and former players, we have our own fraternity. It's a tight fraternity, too. It's not one you pay your tuition in college to go to a fraternity, it's a brotherhood. Former players come back and talk to the players and they want the program to keep winning. They want state championships for the program. ... I love every player I've ever coached. They've put out heart, blood, sweat, and tears for me."
La Grange 10, Pleasant Grove 2
UFCU Disch-Falk Field, Austin
Pleasant Grove (28-14) -- 100 001 0 -- 2 5 3
La Grange (26-9) -- 100 252 x -- 10 9 2
PG -- Trey Jeans, Dylan Silvey, Marshall McPherson, Dalton Willige and Cason Cordray
L -- Logan Vinklarek and Landon Gerik
WP -- Logan Vinklarek (9-2)
LP -- Trey Jeans (7-4)
3B -- L: Logan Vinklarek
2B -- PG: Alex Alsup; L: Tanner Fritsch, Landon Gerik