Hughes Springs is state bound.
A fast start helped the Mustangs defeat the Palmer Bulldogs, 11-1, in the Class 2A Region II baseball final Saturday night at UT Tyler's Irwin Field.
The victory advances Hughes Springs to the UIL state tournament, scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday at Round Rock's Dell Diamond. The Mustangs (35-1), the state's top-ranked team by the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association, swept the best-of-three series after winning the opener, 2-0, Thursday.
No. 8 Palmer completed the season at 31-8.
Mustangs coach Kent Craig said the team had been focusing on doing what it takes to win all week.
"They have to beat us," Craig said. "That was the game plan all along. We just kept the pressure on them. All we talked about was finding a way to get two wins."
Hughes Springs' Cody Hawkins played a key role in the two game series and Craig said he's going to be a player to watch going to the state tournament.
"He's as dialed in as I've ever seen him," Craig said. "He got like this earlier in the year where he went through a lull in the middle and he's seeing the ball well again. You ask all good hitters, they'll have time where it looks like they're throwing beach balls up there and then it looks like their throwing beans at him. Right now, they're throwing beach balls at him."
As for Hawkins, he said he doesn't care what his stats look like as long as he can help his team go all the way.
"I felt great at the plate but I could care less if I went 0-6 today as long as we got that W," Hawkins said. "We're going to keep doing what we're doing. I've been with every one of these guys since I was 6-years-old and I think that helps with our team chemistry. Now we just want to win it all."
Hughes Springs opened the game with bats blazing.
Hawkins led things off with an infield single but was taken off the bases after Trent Shelton hit into a fielder's choice. A Chad McKinney single and Eric Berryhill walk loaded the bases. A wild pitch brought in Shelton for the first run of the game. One batter later, Josh Anton drew the walk to load the bases for the second time in the inning. Asa Gual then stepped into the box and singled in McKinney and Berryhill to make it 3-0.
The Mustangs added a run in the second inning before batting through the order in the third busting the game wide open. Josh Anton opened the frame in grand style hitting a long double which hit off the middle of the outfield wall. Gual and Hunter Smith were both hit by pitches to load the bases for Hawkins. Hawkins hit a routine fly ball which was dropped allowing Anton to score, giving Hughes Springs a 5-0 lead. A Shelton single brought in another run before Chad McKinney was hit with a pitch.
Berryhill hit a sac fly deep enough to allow Hawkins to score. Zach Basham hit a rocket to center scoring a run before Anton stepped into the batter's box for the second time in the inning singling down the left-field line. A passed ball brought in McKinney for the sixth and final run of the inning giving Hughes Springs a commanding 10-run lead.
Palmer was able to get on the board in the fifth inning to avoid the shutout and keep their playoff hopes alive. With one out, Tyler Lowe hit the Bulldogs' fourth hit of the game with an infield single. A fly out later, Judge Wolfe stepped into the box and belted a ball deep to right field that hit the top of the fence which brought Lowe around to score. Despite the rally, a strikeout ended the inning.
Hughes Springs plated its final run in the top of the sixth. With one out on the board, Gual hit a single up the middle before Jacob Taylor drew the walk. Hunter Smith singled up the middle to bring in Gual to score. The Mustangs' defense shut down the Bulldogs in the bottom half to clinch the game and regional championship.