TEXARKANA, Texas – Great teams find a way to win in all sports. Pleasant Grove’s baseball team did just that Thursday night, scoring two unearned runs in the sixth against Liberty-Eylau to win the Region II-4A championship at Texas High’s Tiger Field, 4-3.
The Hawks took advantage of L-E’s only two errors to score the decisive runs. Pleasant Grove (33-8) swept the best-of-three series, having won Wednesday’s opener, 7-5.
“Coe Blain competed his tail off, and our defense was outstanding,” said winning coach Riley Fincher. “I don’t know what to say about Brenton Clark. He’s a freshman that made two outstanding defensive plays there at the end.”
Fincher was spreading the praise around, including the Leopards’ losing pitcher Nate Moore.
“You can’t say enough about Nate Moore; I’ve told that young man numerous times that I love watching the way he competes. The was a series between two great teams, and words alone don’t express how proud I am of my guys. This will be the ninth or tenth time for a Pleasant Grove team to play in the state tournament.”
Unearned runs were Moore’s downfall
Pleasant Grove trailed 3-2 going into the bottom of the sixth. Clark reached safely on an infield error. JM Long followed with a bunt single. Both runners moved up on Alex Murphy’s sacrifice bunt, and Tucker Anderson was intentionally walked to load the bases. Anderson hit a two-run bomb in the second inning to wipe out L-E’s early 2-0 lead.
Moore struck out the next batter, and appeared to dodge the threat when Brock Bearden lofted a flyball to left. The ball was dropped after a long run by the left fielder, scoring both Clark and Long.
Blain, who came on in relief of Alex Galvan in the second, ran into trouble in the seventh. Colby Brooks led off the inning with a single to center. Moore forced the runner at second, but was safe at first. Braylon Blair was thrown out by Clark on a hard-shot to second, followed by an intentional walk to Gage Bellatti. Bryce Blackwell smoked a 1-1 offering that Clark caught inches above the ground to end the game.
“We fought, and I’m proud of my players,” said L-E coach Zach Fowler. “We made mistakes, and you can’t do that against a good team and win. Our guys hit the ball hard that last inning, it just didn’t work out for us. It just wasn’t meant to be this time, but this team put L-E back on the map.
L-E scored early for 2-0 advantage
The Leopards got on the scoreboard quickly after Brooks smashed a double to right-center. Moore followed with a bunt hit to put runners at the corners, and Blair drove in the game’s first run.
L-E scored again in the second after a leadoff walk to Bryce Blackwell. That brought Blain to the mound, who yielded a bunt hit. A force at second, and Blain’s first strikeout had the Hawks’ right-hander close to being out of trouble. Ron Garza was hit by a pitch, and Brooks walked to force home Hunter Burks to make it 2-0.
Alex Murphy singled to start the bottom of the second, and Anderson smashed his fourth home run of the year on a 2-2 pitch to left-center.
The Leopards regained the lead in the fourth. Zach Brush was hit by a pitch. He moved up on a bunt, and Brooks was intentionally walked. Moore followed with a run-scoring single to right. Blain retired the next seven L-E batters prior to the seventh inning threat.
L-E’s best season in 14 years ends with a record of 29-12-2. The Hawks will find out Sunday who they play in the semifinals at Austin.