AUSTIN — Pleasant Grove clinched its fifth state final appearance in the UIL baseball tournament.
The Hawks thrashed Stephenville, 13-0 in 4 1-2 innings, behind a 2-hit shutout by junior pitcher Blake Jennings in the Class 4A semifinals Wednesday at UFCU Disch-Falk Stadium.
PG (34-8) will face Rusk (28-7) for the state championship at 6:30 p.m. today. The Eagles beat No. 1 Sinton, 6-3, to end the Pirates' year at 33-5.
Jennings faced just one over the minimum for five innings, thanks to some stellar defense and catcher Cason Head throwing out two runners attempting to steal second in the second inning. Jennings needed just 55 pitches in five innings of work, allowed two hits, struck out three and walked two.
The other base runner was erased on a double play to end the fourth inning.
The Hawks put Stephenville (28-9-1) in a position the Yellowjackets hadn't faced many times during their 18-game win streak — chasing the lead from the beginning.
"Our kids didn't sit on our lead; they kept playing and kept competing offensively, every at-bat," Pleasant Grove head coach Riley Fincher said. "It was definitely a great win. We'll enjoy this one for about five minutes and then turn our focus on who we're going to play in the final.
"Blake throwing strikes and getting them to swing the bats was huge. We made some nice defensive plays behind him, Cason throwing out two runners was huge, and getting our leadoff guy one, getting a big hit and getting a two-out hit was the difference for us."
Pleasant Grove batted around in the first inning and grabbed an early 4-0 lead. The Yellowjackets never recovered.
Alex Galvan was hit by a pitch to start things off, and JM Long tripled over the center fielder's head with one out to give PG the lead. With two outs, Stephenville intentionally walked Tucker Anderson prior to a 5-pitch walk to Travler Couch to load the bases.
A wild pitch sent Long across the plate, and Brock Bearden lined a single to left to drive in Anderson and Couch for a 4-0 advantage.
The Hawks stranded a runner at third in the second, but put the game away in the third.
Anderson, who was intentionally walked twice in the game, doubled down the left field line to lead off the inning. Couch was hit by a pitch, and Bearden grounded an RBI single past the third baseman.
Head loaded the bases when he was hit by a pitch, and Hayden Koller plated the second run of the inning with a sac fly to right. A passed ball scored a run, and a pair of walks loaded the bases again, ending Reece Elston's day on the mound for the Yellowjackets.
Elston threw 66 pitches in 2 1-3 innings, allowing nine runs on five hits. He fanned four, walked five and hit three PG batters.
Against the first of three relievers, Long worked a walk to forced in a run, and Alex Murphy's sac fly brought in the fifth run of the frame to give the Hawks a 9-0 lead.
"When it was 9-0, we were still competing," Fincher said. "Our kids fought hard until the final out, and I was proud to see that. In the first inning, Blake threw four pitches, they hit three hard ball and to see our defense make plays behind him was good.
"Then (in the bottom of the first) we scored three runs with two outs was huge for us, offensively."
In the fourth, Koller singled in a run, and Long added a two-run triple, scoring on an error for the final tally.
Long was 2 for 3 with two triples and four RBI, Bearden finished 2 for 2 with three RBI, and Anderson doubled in his only plate appearance.