MOUNT PLEASANT — For a moment it looked like it was going to happen to Argyle for the second straight day.
Texarkana Pleasant Grove grabbed a one-run lead right before the seventh inning, just like it did Friday, and was three outs away from knocking Argyle out of the Class 3A playoffs.
By the time Pleasant Grove got those three outs, Argyle didn’t just extend the game, the Eagles extended their season for another week.
Argyle scored two runs in the top of the seventh to defeat Pleasant Grove 2-1 on Saturday in Game 3 of the 3A Region II semifinals. The win at Northeast Texas Community College gave Argyle the best-of-three series and sent the Eagles to the regional finals for the third time in school history.
For the first time in seven years, Pleasant Grove will not reach the state tournament. And for the first time in three playoff meetings, the Eagles finally got the better of the Hawks.
“It’s something that’s been like a hill we’ve always been trying to get over,” Argyle senior Parker Mushinski said. “I’m just happy [senior Drew] Gooch threw so well and we got over it. That’s a great team right there.”
Argyle (29-9-1) advances to face Paris North Lamar in the Region II finals. The Eagles and North Lamar are two of eight teams remaining in the 3A playoffs. As of Saturday evening, details of the matchup had not been determined.
After the sixth inning, it looked as if Argyle’s hopes of advancing would be dashed at the hands of the Hawks again.
Gooch, a TCU signee, and Pleasant Grove junior Jarod Bayless didn’t need many pitches to keep the game scoreless through five innings.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Hawks scored the game’s first run, virtually repeating what happened in Game 2. Two errors and a single by Jacob Bennett allowed Pleasant Grove (25-12) to give Bayless a 1-0 lead going into the seventh.
Argyle junior catcher Ryley Balch hit a leadoff single in the seventh, giving Argyle hope.
“I told a lot of people that if the game’s on the line, that’s who I want at the plate,” Argyle coach Ricky Griffin said.
A sacrifice bunt and two errors allowed Argyle pinch runner Spencer Cullen to tie the game. Two batters later, Gooch softly planted a sacrifice bunt down the third-base line to score Cutter McDonald for the go-ahead run.
Gooch (8-0) returned to the mound for the seventh. The Hawks had a runner on second with two outs and sophomore Joe Pearlman at the plate. Pearlman hit a grounder near first and stepped on the base a split second after Gooch ran over and got his foot on the bag to end the Hawks’ season.
Gooch, Balch and Mushinski executed a pickoff in the seventh to erase a leadoff walk.
“That was pretty sweet,” Balch said. “We’ve been working on that for three weeks now. We used it last series, didn’t get them. But we got them there when it counted. It was exciting.”
Gooch and Bayless pitched complete games, and neither allowed an earned run.
In 2011, Gooch picked up a win against Pleasant Grove in the Region II finals. This year in the semifinals, he picked up a save in Game 1 and in Game 3 became the first pitcher in the last seven years to earn two playoff victories against the Hawks.
Pleasant Grove defeated Argyle in the Region II finals in 2010 and 2011. Griffin’s plan to save his ace for Game 3 paid off and helped the Eagles finally knock off their postseason rivals.
“I was brought up as a freshman to pitch against them, and it wasn’t any different,” Gooch said. “One run game, guy on second. All that experience I had helped me a lot in that last inning.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter @Ben_Baby.