Big First Inning Sinks Pleasant Grove in 3-1 Semifinal Loss to Abilene Wylie [VIDEO]
AUSTIN — It rarely happens in baseball, but the fate of two teams' season came down to just one pitch Wednesday evening.
Cameron Hanna's two-strike, two-out, bases-loaded triple in the bottom of the first ignited defending champion Abilene Wylie's 3-1 win over Pleasant Grove in their Class 4A semifinal at UFCU-Disch Falk Field.
Wylie (34-1), which defeated the Hawks (35-4) in last season's semifinal, will take on Robinson 31-2 at 6:30 p.m. Thursday for the state championship.
Pleasant Grove was making its eight appearance at the state tournament in 10 seasons, but was denied a trip to its first final since 2013.
“I was proud of our guys the whole day," said Pleasant Grove coach Riley Fincher. "We didn’t change what we did. We kept fighting at the plate, but you’ve got to give all the credit to (Wylie). But I told our guys they have nothing to hang their head about. They’ve had an outstanding season.”
Wylie junior left-hander Connor Carlton (12-0), who earned the complete-game win over PG a season ago, did not allow his first hit until the fifth, when Hawks catcher Keaton Russo led off with a solo home run into the visitors bullpen in left.
Carlton allowed two hits, struck out five and walked one in seven innings. He threw 95 pitches.
“We tell our guys to see the baseball, hit the baseball," Fincher said. "(Carlton is) a great pitcher and he led them last year to the state championship game. I know the hits don’t indicate what we had, but I thought we squared up some balls, and I thought they made some good plays.”
Bolden (14-2), aside from the three-run first, dominated the Wylie lineup. Of the four hits he allowed, only one came after the opening frame. He struck out nine and walked one in six innings.
“You saw what everybody’s seen all year, a great talent on the mound but a great competitor," FIncher said of Bolden. "He was filling the strike zone and challenging hitters. One pitch away in the first inning … but extremely proud of our guys — 100 percent.”
Zach Smith and Sam King began the first for Wylie with back-to-back singles. The Bulldogs' next batter, Bryce Gist, reached on a fielder's choice and Tyler Henson followed with a walk to load the bases with one out.
Bolden struck out the next batter, and got to a 2-2 count on Hanna, who sent a fly ball to dead center. Hawks' center fielder Carson Cox's initial read sent him toward the infield, but the ball ended up going over his head and all the way to the wall to score three runs.
“You’ve got to give credit to Abilene Wylie," Fincher said. "They did a good job of getting runners on base. And then two outs, 2-2 count and bases loaded and their guy did a good job. The hardest play for an outfielder is line drives right at you."
Bolden surrendered one infield single after the first and retired the final 11 batters he faced.
“They made me a better person, this group," Fincher said. "We’re not the most talented but the fact that we’ve got 10 seniors and they’re all going off to college somewhere to go be students; we had five of our guys in the top 10 of their class. Just to be around those type of guys, I couldn’t be more proud to be associated with them.”
-- Video courtesy of Jeff Power
Abilene Wylie 3, Pleasant Grove 1
Class 4A Semifinal
At UFCU Disch-Falk Field, Austin
Pleasant Grove 000 010 0 — 1 2 0
Wylie 300 000 x — 3 4 1
Pitchers and catchers
- Pleasant Grove: Caleb Bolden and Keaton Russo
- Wylie: Connor Carlton and Caleb Murton
WP — Carlton (12-0)
LP — Bolden (14-2)
- Pleasant Grove: Connor Ouellette
- Wylie: Cameron Hanna
- Pleasant Grove: Russo (fifth inning, solo)