Pleasant Grove Tries for Sixth Consecutive Class 3A State Tournament Berth in Region II Final vs. Melissa
Playing baseball in late May and early June is nothing new for Pleasant Grove.
For the sixth consecutive season, the Hawks are in the Class 3A Region II championship round. The previous five appearances have resulted in state tournament berths, including 3A state championships in 2010 and 2012.
Melissa (29-8-1) remains the lone obstacle between Pleasant Grove (25-12) and that sixth state tournament in a row.
"They swing it 1 through 9, but they'll be hitting it to us and we've been playing pretty good defense," said Pleasant Grove coach Craig Jones. "We're pitching well right now and we're playing really well right now."
Even for a five-time defending region champion, this season's path to the fifth round has not been a conventional one for the Hawks.
After losing seven of the nine players in its regular lineup to graduation, Pleasant Grove started the season 10-10.
"We had played a tough schedule with Calvary Baptist from Shreveport, Hallsville, Nacogdoches, and those guys like that in tournaments, but we weren't playing real good baseball," Jones said. "We only had two returning starters coming back, our 8-hole and 9-hole guys. We were running behind there as far as experience and knowing what was expected of them."
That changed after a District 13-3A-opening loss to Liberty-Eylau.
"The players, they flipped a switch after we lost that first district game against Liberty-Eylau," Jones said. "We said, 'Hey, we need to get locked in here and start learning what we need to do and work harder,' and that's what happened."
Since that 10-10 start, Pleasant Grove has gone 15-2.
Included in that run is a 6-1 playoff record. Pleasant Grove has outscored its opponents 35-7 in those contests, an average score of 5-1. In contrast, Melissa's 6-1 playoff record has come with a cumulative score of 64-45 -- an average score of 9.2-6.4.
Jones said that different PG teams handle the pressure of the program's success in varying degrees. Ultimately, the pressure is a good, he said.
"I think it's worked both ways in the five years we've been here. I think in 2011 the pressure got to them a little bit. I think the expectations placed on them bothered them some, but we welcome it as coaches," Jones said. "We make them aware there is a target on their backs when you have the success we've had. I think the positives outweigh the negatives on that part."
Class 3A Region II
Pleasant Grove Hawks (25-12)
Melissa Cardinals (29-8-1)
Series -- Northeast Texas Community College, Mount Pleasant
- Game 1: 7 p.m. Thursday (May 30)
- Game 2: 7 p.m. Friday (May 31)
- Game 3: 2 p.m. Saturday (June 1) if necessary
How they got here
- Bi-district: bye (District 13-3A champion)
- Area: def. Bullard 2-0 in series (4-2, 2-0)
- Regional quarterfinal: def. Athens 2-0 in series (10-0, 4-1)
- Regional semifinal: def. Princeton 2-1 in series (W 9-3, L 2-1, W 5-0)
- Bi-district: bye (District 12-3A champion)
- Area: def. Sanger 2-0 in series (3-1, 9-8)
- Regional quarterfinal: def. Argyle 2-1 in series (L 9-8, W 12-10, W 13-4)
- Regional semifinal: def. Spring Hill 2-0 in series (7-5, 12-8)
Did you know?
- Pleasant Grove is 6-1 in the playoffs and has outscored three opponents 35-7.
- Melissa is 6-1 in the playoffs and has outscored three opponents 64-45.
- Pleasant Grove has won five consecutive Region II championships.
- The Hawks have won two of the last three Class 3A state championships, including last year's.
- Pleasant Grove has not allowed more than three runs in any of its first seven playoff games. The Hawks have recorded three shutouts.
- Melissa has scored at least seven runs in all but one of its playoffs games and scored 12 or more runs three times.
- Pleasant Grove was 10-10 after a 10-8 district-opening loss to Liberty-Eylau on March 22. Since then, the Hawks have won 15 of 17 contests.
- Winner advances to UIL Class 3A state tournament at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin.