Pleasant Grove Blasts Argyle For 4A State Tournament Berth
McKINNEY -- There's no better way for Joe Pearlman to finish his Pleasant Grove career. It largely started at the state tournament in 2013 and it will end there next week.
The Hawks took out two years of frustration on Argyle in their 8-1 win Saturday in the Class 4A Region II championship game at McKinney Boyd's Bronco Field.
Pleasant Grove is among the last four 4A teams in the state for the seventh time in nine seasons. Pearlman, a four-year starter at shortstop and the team's No. 2 pitcher, will make a second trip to UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin.
"It feels great," Pearlman said. "We're doing it with a great group of guys. We still have two more to win, but that was a big step in the ladder we've been working to climb all year. We just want to get a ring. We weren't able to do that my freshman year. Lost in the state championship game. So, we have a vendetta to get back there."
Meeting Argyle in the playoffs is becoming an annual tradition. The two years in the now nine-year span Pleasant Grove didn't make the state tournament, Argyle did. By nature of beating the Hawks along the way -- toward a state championship in last season's case.
Pleasant Grove (27-4) and Argyle (27-6) initially agreed to play a three-game series. Rain Thursday and graduation conflicts Friday reduced the series into a winner-takes-all game.
From there, the meeting was billed as a pitching duel between Pleasant Grove's Caleb Bolden and Argyle's Connor Mushinski. Neither starter had lost a game all season and both had earned run averages around 1.00.
It turned into a decisively one-sided game.
Mushinski was pulled off the mound and put into right field after two innings. He got worked for 56 pitches, two earned runs and was in the hole facing a 3-1 deficit thanks to an unearned run.
A.J. Snyder was the alpha and the omega during the critical innings.
As Pleasant Grove's second batter of the game, he got things going on a drive into right field and advanced to second base on a fielding error.
Heath Ferguson's sacrifice hit moved Snyder to third base before sophomore cleanup hitter Carson Cox hit a two-out triple on a full count to get Pleasant Grove on the board.
Argyle mounted a two-out rally in the top of the second and Watson Timmons tied the game, 1-1, with a drive through the middle gap.
It was all Pleasant Grove afterward.
Pearlman laid down a bunt with one out and runners at the corners in the second inning. Another fielding error let Bolden get home from third base.
Ferguson hit an RBI single later in the inning for a 3-1 lead before Argyle closed the inning on a groundout.
The game slipped away from Argyle in the third frame, following Bolden's first perfect inning of the contest.
Jacob Smith and Bolden drew one-out walks against relief pitcher Brett Lundy. Connor Oullette's shot through the left gap plated Smith for a 4-1 advantage.
With two outs, Pearlman walked to load the bases and Snyder dropped a blooper into shallow left-center field for two more runs.
Argyle struggled to come up with answers as Bolden put together another two perfect half-innings toward a two-hit complete game on 101 pitches. Bolden walked five batters for seven total base runners versus the defending champs.
Cox added a second RBI in the sixth inning and later scored the game's final run from third base when Argyle's first baseman bobbled a pickoff attempt.
"Everybody was really anxious to play," Cox said. "A lot of the juniors and seniors that were on the team last year, they wanted revenge. I was kind of feeding off of their energy. I wanted to take control, too."
Advancing to the state tournament level of competition is a first for most of the Hawks.
Cox attended Pleasant Grove's 2008 appearance in Austin, which ended with a state championship game loss, to begin the six straight years at the tournament. Other players have seen other Pleasant Grove teams at the ultimate level.
But Pearlman really is the outlier as a player who has been on the biggest stage.
Head coach Riley Fincher was a part of the 2013 tournament team as an assistant coach, but he ultimately left to take the head job at Ashdown High School in Arkansas before returning to Pleasant Grove in a higher capacity. He missed some of the heartbreakers against Argyle.
"I've been fortunate to be a part of state tournaments," Fincher said. "Two in Texas. One as an assistant coach (at Lufkin), one here, one in Arkansas as head coach and now one here as a head coach. It never gets old. But it's not about me. It's about these kids and the hard work they put in. To see how happy, elated, they are to get there. But, the old cliche, they know it's not over."
The 4A state tournament begins Wednesday on the University of Texas' campus in Austin while all other classifications' games will be conducted at Dell Diamond in Round Rock. Semifinal games will be played at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Winners of the semifinal games will meet for the 4A state championship game Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
Abilene Wylie, Salado and Waco Robinson will represent the other three regions in the tournament. The University Interscholastic League will randomly pair the teams together Sunday ahead of the semifinal games.
"It was two good ball clubs that competed for the right to go to state," Pearlman said. "We definitely have respect for each other. We know we're pretty much the same, style wise. We know they were going to come out and give us their best, so we had to come out and give them our best."
Pleasant Grove 8, Argyle 1
Class 4A Region II Championship Game
At Bronco Field, McKinney
Argyle 010 000 0 -- 1 2 3
Pleasant Grove 123 002 X -- 8 9 0
Pitchers and catchers
- Argyle: Connor Mushinski, Brett Lundy (3), Sean Bolin (3), Ford Uranga (6) and Austin King
- Pleasant Grove: Caleb Bolden and Mark Ashby
WP -- Bolden
LP -- Mushinski
- Pleasant Grove: Carson Cox