McKINNEY — Argyle coach Ricky Griffin turned and looked to senior Drew Gooch after the fifth inning of Thursday’s Class 3A Region II semifinal series opener against Texarkana Pleasant Grove.
The Eagles were nursing a two-run lead, and Griffin knew his team needed to pick up a win before heading out to Mount Pleasant. Griffin and the TCU signee were thinking the same thing when the head coach approached the pitcher.
“I came in after the fifth and said ‘If it’s still a close game, do you want to …’ and he finished my sentence — ‘Yeah, I want to close,’” Griffin said. “He had already thought about it.”
Gooch picked up the final three outs of the game and Argyle defeated Pleasant Grove 5-3 at McKinney Boyd to take a 1-0 series lead.
“We had to win,” Griffin said. “They’re throwing their No. 3 or 4 [pitcher] against us tonight, trying to steal a win somehow. We wanted to make sure we gave ourselves a shot going to their neck of the woods.”
It is the third playoff meeting between the schools, with all of those coming in the last five years. Pleasant Grove (24-11) has been to the 3A state tournament six years in a row. The Hawks are now 49-5 in Region II playoff games over the last seven years.
Game 2 of the best-of-three series is at 7 p.m. today at Northeast Texas Community College in Mount Pleasant. If Pleasant Grove wins, Game 3 will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at NTCC.
After the way Argyle junior Hunter Markwardt pitched in the first six innings, Griffin decided to leave his starter on the mound for the beginning of the seventh. But after Markwardt hit the Hawks’ No. 9 batter, Brayden Nicholson, Griffin went to Gooch.
Gooch entered the game in the seventh for the Eagles (28-8-1) and allowed a single to the first batter he faced, putting two runners on with no outs.
But Argyle junior catcher Ryley Balch threw out a runner trying to steal third base, and Gooch picked up the next two outs. The left-handed pitcher got senior Trey Jeans, who has signed with Louisiana-Lafayette, to ground out to end the ballgame.
“I just wanted to help the team finish it up and get the first game underneath our belt. Still got another one tomorrow,” Gooch said. “We want to win. We’re going in to win it. We’ll try to finish it up tomorrow.”
At the plate, Gooch went 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Sophomore shortstop Tanner Boyzuick and junior center fielder Cutter McDonald each had two hits for the Eagles.
After falling behind 1-0 in the first, Argyle tacked on two runs in the second before the Hawks tied it in the top of the fourth. Argyle got three runs off Pleasant Grove senior pitcher Dylan Silvey in the bottom of the fourth.
Markwardt (3-4), who started Game 3 of Argyle’s regional quarterfinal series against Sanger, pitched six innings, allowed seven hits and struck out four. His biggest strikeout came in the bottom of the fifth with runners on first and third with two outs.
Markwardt threw a breaking ball in the dirt and Hawk junior Jarod Bayless fanned to get the Eagles out of the inning. Markwardt said it was much easier pitching with a lead for a good part of the ballgame.
“Whenever they put up runs, it’s really easy to pitch behind,” Markwardt said.
Markwardt’s performance helped put Argyle in a familiar position. In the 2011 3A Region II finals, Argyle won Game 1 before dropping the next two games.
“I think I didn’t do a very good job of letting the kids understand that those guys go to the state tournament year after year for a reason,” Griffin said. “I didn’t do a good job in the years past of stressing to finish a series. That’s all we talked about out there — just finish the series.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter @Ben_Baby.
Argyle 5, Texarkana Pleasant Grove 3
WP — Hunter Markwardt (3-4). LP — Dylan Silvey. S — Drew Gooch (1). 2B — A: Cutter McDonald, Markwardt. PG — Jarod Bayless. Records — Pleasant Grove (24-11), Argyle (28-8-1).