TYLER – Cody Hawkins finished 3-for-3 and Dylan Moore tossed a three-hit complete game shutout as Hughes Springs moved to within one victory of punching their ticket to the state tournament on Thursday night.
Moore carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning and struck out five while Hawkins scored and belted in an insurance run to lift the top-ranked Mustangs to a 2-0 win over Palmer in Game 1 of the Class 2A Region II Finals at UT Tyler’s Irwin Field.
Moore and Palmer starter Aaron Hunter dueled throughout, with the difference being something that Hughes Springs head coach Kent Craig said his team focused on all week: getting runners in.
Hughes Springs outhit Palmer 8-3 and stranded three in the contest.
“We stressed all week that if we get them on, we have to get them in,” Craig said. “We left 22 stranded against Grandview and against a team like Palmer that can pitch and play defense you can’t do that and that was a point of emphasis this week.
“Tonight when we got them on, we got them in.”
Game 2 of the series is set for 5 p.m. Saturday at UT Tyler.
Moore and Hunter battled back and forth through three innings before Hawkins led off the fourth inning with a double for his second hit of the contest. Hawkins and Eric Berryhill reached base to lead off the first and second innings but two Palmer double plays thwarted the Mustangs’ threat.
Hawkins came in to score the contest’s first run on an infield single from Chad McKinney to give Hughes Springs a 1-0 lead.
“In this round of the playoffs, you’re not going to see anything flashy,” Craig said. “You’re going to see two aces up there toeing the rubber and that was the case tonight.”
Asa Gual belted a stand-up double down the line in the bottom of the fifth inning and came in to score on bloop RBI single from Hawkins to complete his 3-for-3 night at the plate.
Palmer put two runners on base with one out in both the fifth and seventh inning but Moore and the Hughes Springs’ defense ended the threat both times. Moore sat down the Bulldogs in order in the sixth inning with two strikeouts.
Craig said the Mustangs will practice before six Mustangs walk the stage tonight in Hughes Springs’ graduation.
“Tonight’s win was huge, they’ve got to chase us now,” Craig said.