Pleasant Grove always has high expectations for its baseball team.
Just listen to what head coach Riley Fincher has to say about his 2019 squad.
“We expect our young men to come out every day and compete at a high level,” said Fincher, whose Hawks made a deep run into the 2018 postseason, and finished 26-5. “We ask them to play the game hard, and for each other. They’re asked to be good teammates and good students.
“We’re definitely proud of the success we’ve had the last couple of seasons, but we tell our guys this is a brand new team. There will be new faces in the lineup, and everyone in our district will have high expectations. Pittsburg has a lot of players back, and a new coach. Liberty-Eylau keeps improving every year under Rick Fowler. Paris and North Lamar are good every year, and always play us tough. I think district is wide open this year.”
Don’t expect Fincher’s peers to agree about the district race being wide open. It wasn’t that long ago Pleasant Grove advanced to the UIL’s Final Four in baseball six years in a row. That may have been under legendary coach Craig Jones, but not much as changed since Fincher took over.
Hawks’ baseball team favored again
On paper Pleasant Grove will be the team to beat this year. The Hawks lost four players to graduation, and Braden Hlavinka will miss his junior season after tearing his knee up in football. Hlavinka played everywhere on the infield and pitched a year ago.
“You hate to see what happened to Hlavinka; he was hitting in the four or five hole last season,” said Fincher. “He will be missed this year. His spirits are high, he’s out there every practice helping out any way he can. Still, it’s next man up for us, and someone else has an opportunity.”
The Hawks lost pitcher Matthew Gilley to graduation, but Fincher had a deep group on the mound. Seniors Nick Voyles and Marshall Oubre likely threw more innings than anyone in 2018. Voyles won 10 games. Sophomore Tucker Anderson appears to be on his way to an outstanding career. Ryan Galvan, Riley Birmingham and Peyton Trammell add to the Hawks’ depth on the mound.
Pleasant Grove lineup features experience
Senior catcher Keaton Russo was a defensive wizard, and his hitting improved weekly last season. Galvan is penciled in at first, Jackson Cobb at shortstop, Ben Harmon at third, Seth Hopkins in center, and Andrew LeGrand in left.
There’s a battle for the starting job at second between Parker Twisdale and Luke Muller, while freshman Brock Bearden is dueling Ben Wilson for the final spot in the outfield.
Like many other districts, teams in 15-4A will be playing three league games against each other.
Pleasant Grove opens Feb. 18 at Atlanta, which dropped to 3A in last February’s UIL realignment.