ABILENE — After battling the fierce West Texas wind blowing in from the outfield toward home plate in Game 1 of a best-of-three Class 4A playoff series, Argyle coach Ricky Griffin said he was pleased with the way his offense adjusted to the conditions Wednesday night.
Argyle was all too comfortable with the wind by the first pitch of Game 2 on Thursday, and the team took its production to another level in similar conditions while using 19 hits and a nine-run second inning to fuel a 19-1 win at Abilene Christian’s Crutcher Scott Field.
Argyle outscored Canyon by a combined score of 28-1 to extend its playoff winning streak to 18 games while securing a spot in the Region I final, where the team will meet Iowa Park next week.
“I really thought this would be a close one today, because I didn’t know how we would react,” Griffin said. “We showed some maturity today the way we came out and didn’t have any letdown against a good team.
“I turned them around during the week and made them hit from the left field corner into the wind during practice. I asked them to make a commitment to hit line drives and ground balls while bunting well and playing good defense. They did all of that.”
Griffin got 20 players involved in the blowout victory, and 12 players combined for 19 hits. Preston King (3-for-3, two runs), Riley Hartman (2-for-2, two runs), Brenden Dixon (2-for-4, two RBIs), Hayden Clearman (2-for-3, two RBIs), Nico Patrick (2-for-2, two RBIs), Alex Gonzales (2-for-5, three RBIs) and Cade Merka (1-for-2, two RBIs) were among the top performers.
Argyle, No. 1 in 4A and No. 2 in the USA Today Super 25 Expert Rankings, has outscored opponents 75-2 in its last five playoff games.
“We were just seeing a lot of pitches the same way we do in practice,” Patrick said. “We let them get to the plate, and we did what we do best. All of us can hit the ball, and all of us can play — that’s what we do.”
While just about the entire roster contributed offensively, Sean Bolin and Tate Van Poppel took care of things on the mound. Bolin gave up two hits and had five strikeouts in three innings before Van Poppel shut the door with two hitless innings of relief.
The Argyle staff has held its opponents to one run or fewer in nine of its last 10 games.
“That’s the best fastball that Sean’s had this year,” Griffin said. “He had his off-speed working too. In some of these games, you’ve got to be able to get your other starter some reps and some innings, and Sean is mature — he wanted Tate to get those last two innings.”
Argyle, which has won 25 straight games, will play its first elimination game of the postseason in a one-game playoff against Iowa Park at 8 p.m. Wednesday at ACU.
Argyle lost a coin flip for the series format, leaving the teams playing one game for a trip to the state tournament rather than a best-of-three series.
Argyle defeated Iowa Park 9-2 on March 14 in the regular season.
“They’re a good team. They’re definitely going to want to beat us after the way things went in the first game,” Gonzales said. “If we keep doing what we’re doing, we should be in good shape.”
Argyle 19, Canyon 1 (5)
Argyle 094 33 — 19 19 0
Canyon 001 00 — 1 2 3
WP — Sean Bolin (8-1). LP — Keith Contreras. 2B — Argyle: Alex Gonzales, Bo Hogeboom, Austin King.
Iowa Park 3, Hereford 0
Iowa Park secured its spot in the Region I final by defeating Hereford 3-0 in Game 2 of a best-of-three series.
The Hawks won Game 1 by a final of 1-0 on Wednesday thanks to a dominant pitching performance from Chris Dickens, who allowed just two hits and had eight strikeouts in a complete game.
Kaleb Gafford was equally as impressive in Game 2, allowing two hits and racking up eight strikeouts in seven innings of work.
Braxton Briones led the way at the plate with a 3-for-4 effort while Kase Johnson and Gafford each recorded a hit.
Iowa Park will hope to catch Argyle off guard next week. In the regular-season matchup, Gafford gave up five hits and six runs in four innings.
“That’s a part of the season where they weren’t rolling yet like they are now, but we weren’t either,” Argyle coach Griffin said. “We’re playing a lot better now than we were then, but they are too. Our guys know that this time of the year if you don’t pick your game up then you’re going to go home.
“We don’t want to go home.”
Iowa Park 3, Hereford 0
Iowa Park 000 030 0 — 3 5 1
Hereford 000 000 0 — 0 2 1
WP — Kaleb Gafford. LP — Josiah Pena. 2B — Iowa Park: Braxton Briones.