For the third time in school history, Argyle will be playing in the Class 3A Region II baseball finals. And for the first time, the Eagles won’t be playing Texarkana Pleasant Grove.
That’s because Argyle knocked Pleasant Grove out of the postseason with a dramatic series victory last weekend behind the stellar work of its pitching staff.
The main reason Argyle is playing Paris North Lamar in the 3A Region II finals this weekend is because of junior Hunter Markwardt, senior Parker Mushinski and senior Drew Gooch.
The Eagles (29-9-1) relied on the starting pitching of the aforementioned trio to top Pleasant Grove for the first time in three playoff meetings. Of the series’ 21 innings, Argyle’s bullpen (i.e. Gooch and Rixey Boyd) only needed to pitch 1.2 innings in the entire series.
Or in other words, the bullpen recorded five of the 63 outs in the regional semifinal series. Markwardt and Mushinski both pitched into the seventh innings — Markwardt in a 5-3 Argyle Game 1 win, Mushinski in a 1-0 Argyle Game 2 loss. Gooch pitched a complete game in the Eagles’ 2-1 win in Game 3.
Each one of those performances was impressive in their own ways.
Let’s start with Markwardt. Markwardt started Game 3 for the Eagles in the regional quarterfinals against Sanger. But last weekend, Argyle head coach Ricky Griffin and Pleasant Grove head coach Craig Jones decided to make the same move with their respective pitching rotations.
Griffin sent his No. 3 pitcher, Markwardt, for Game 1. Jones picked a pitcher of the same ilk in Dylan Silvey. Both hoped their guy could squeak out a win and save their best arms for Game 2 and if needed, Game 3.
Markwardt pitched six strong innings, Gooch got the save and that gave Argyle a 1-0 series lead, setting up Saturday’s Game 2 at Northeast Texas College in Mount Pleasant.
Griffin put Mushinski, a Texas Tech signee, on the mound. Mushinski had control problems against Sanger, but for the most part against the Hawks, he was stellar. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Pleasant Grove senior and Louisiana-Lafayette signee Trey Jeans was better.
The Argyle lefty threw 102 pitches and eventually ran out of gas in the seventh, when he walked three straight batters to allow the game’s only run. Griffin said that the two-hitter Mushinski tossed was his best performance.
(Also, let’s briefly talk about Boyd because what he did was massive, even in a losing effort. Boyd came into the game with the bases loaded and one out, and he left all three runners stranded. To come into that kind of game, against that kind of team and do that is a great sign for Argyle as it enters the final two rounds of the postseason).
Then in Game 3, Gooch and Pleasant Grove’s Jarod Bayless were trying to see who could throw the least amount of pitches to get three outs (Bayless won with a five-pitch inning in front of an Oklahoma scout).
Neither allowed an earned run, and Argyle scored two runs in the top of the seventh to pull off the 2-1 against the Hawks.
Gooch became perhaps the only pitcher in the last seven years to beat Pleasant Grove twice in the playoffs in his career. Griffin’s gamble to start Gooch in Game 3 instead of going with the Mushinski-Gooch-Markwardt combo that he used against Sanger turned about to be a brilliant decision.
Then again, when those three pitch like that, it’s hard to make any coach look bad.