McKINNEY — A home run over the right-field wall and a homer over the left-field wall helped put Argyle one game away from the Class 3A state tournament.
Argyle junior Cutter McDonald and senior Parker Mushinski each hit three-run home runs in the second inning in Argyle’s 15-3 victory on Thursday night over Paris North Lamar in Game 1 of the Class 3A Region II finals at McKinney Boyd.
The game ended in the fifth inning because of the 10-run mercy rule.
With a win in Game 2 tonight in the best-of-three series, Argyle will secure its first state tournament appearance in school history. North Lamar is looking for its first state tournament berth since 1987. Game 2 is scheduled for 8 p.m. at North Lamar.
Coming into Argyle’s third regional final appearance in program history, the Eagles were without a home run in nine previous playoff games. But the blasts by McDonald and Mushinski sparked 12 straight Argyle runs.
“[The difference between] a home run and a line drive is a fraction of an inch,” Mushinski said. “No one’s trying to hit one. It just happens. Me and Cutter, I guess, both came up there with the idea of hitting a line drive. We missed it. We missed it good.”
McDonald finished 2-for-3, adding a triple, a sacrifice fly and six RBIs. Mushinski went 1-for-1 with two walks.
Mushinski, a Texas Tech signee, started on the mound for the Eagles (30-9-1) and went up against North Lamar senior Daniel Gibbons. Gibbons, an Army signee, entered the game with a 0.89 ERA but struggled to throw strikes in the first two innings of the contest.
With the Eagles leading 3-2 in the bottom of the second, Gibbons loaded the bases for the second straight inning. Gibbons was able to induce a double play, but the left-handed Mushinski made sure Argyle didn’t waste the opportunity with his blast to right.
Three batters later, McDonald pulled a pitch to left to put Argyle up 9-2.
In only two innings of work, Gibbons threw 84 pitches, allowed five hits, walked six and struck out two.
“He had some struggles in the strike zone and put himself behind, and they put some good swings on pitches,” North Lamar head coach Scott Igleheart said.
Argyle was able to get six more runs in the bottom of the third inning off of North Lamar reliever Ty Jones to take a 13-run lead.
After Mushinski hit the first batter he faced in the top of the fourth inning, Argyle head coach Ricky Griffin brought in reliever Quinton Rockwell. Rockwell picked up three strikeouts in the fourth and allowed a run in the fifth before he got the outs he needed to put the Panthers (21-16-1) in a 1-0 series deficit.
Griffin said one of the biggest differences in Thursday’s game occurred on the way to McKinney Boyd. Unlike previous bus rides this season, Griffin said the usual laughter and chatter was void on the ride to the ballpark.
“It was silent on the way over here,” Griffin said. “That’s probably as well mentally prepared as they’ve been able to get themselves all year. I think they knew there was going to be a challenge with their lefty on the mound, and we were just ready to play.”
Argyle now has a chance to close out the series on the road. Argyle still has senior left-handed pitcher Drew Gooch at its disposal. Gooch, a TCU signee, is 8-0 this season with a 0.74 ERA. Mushinski said the Eagles will need to put Thursday’s win behind them in order to be one of the four teams still remaining in the playoffs when next week rolls around.
“We gotta stay and compete,” Mushinski said. “We can’t slack off. We still have to give 100 percent like we did today.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter @Ben_Baby.
Argyle 15, Paris North Lamar 3 (5)
WP — Parker Mushinski (7-2). LP — Daniel Gibbons. 2B — NL: Hunter Reeves. A: Tyler Gibson . 3B — A: Cutter McDonald. HR — A: Mushinski, McDonald. Records — Paris North Lamar (21-16-1), Argyle (30-6-1).