It’s not often that Argyle finds itself in a close game in the bi-district round of the playoffs, but Stephenville provided the Eagles with an uncharacteristic challenge last weekend.

Argyle defeated the Yellow Jackets 7-3 and 5-1 to advance to the area round of the Class 4A playoffs, and the wins marked the first time since 2009 that an opponent has scored on the Eagles in the bi-district round.

After defeating Wilmer-Hutchins 10-0 in 2018 and Dallas Roosevelt 17-0 in 2017, Argyle coach Ricky Griffin said the step up in competition was a welcome one for the Eagles. Argyle will look to build on those wins as it takes on Graham in a best-of-three series, with Game 1 set for 4 p.m. Friday at Argyle.

Game 2 will immediately follow Game 1, and Game 3, if needed, will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at Graham.

“Stephenville played really well, and they were a lot better than a fourth-place team in a district,” Griffin said. “We talk about getting better and building each game and they definitely pushed us, so hopefully that puts us a little bit ahead of where we’ve been after the first round the last couple years.”

Graham, the No. 3 seed out of District 6-4A, edged Snyder in a pair of first-round games. The Steers took Game 1 7-4 in eight innings before winning an 11-inning thriller in Game 2 9-8. Graham is 20-12-2 and finished behind No. 4 Iowa Park and Vernon in district play.

The Steers had seven pitchers take the mound in the series against Snyder and struggled with walks, allowing 22 in two games. Grant Bullock and Corey Ballew were the most effective on the mound, as Ballew allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings in Game 2 while Bullock gave up one run in four innings and got the win in Game 1.

“Graham has some good left-handed pitching,” Griffin said. “They’re athletic, and it looks like they’re pretty good fundamentally. We’re expecting something pretty similar to Stephenville this week.”

Argyle pitcher Chad Ricker, who has committed to Texas-San Antonio, continued to shine as the Eagles’ No. 1 pitcher against Stephenville, striking out 11 and giving up three runs in six innings in Game 1. Tate Van Poppel got the start in Game 2 and allowed one run in four innings, but Utah signee Sean Bolin — who tossed a scoreless inning of relief in Game 1 — will likely get a start this week.

Bolin, who was pitcher of the year on the Denton Record-Chronicle’s All-Area Baseball Team in 2017 and 2018, is 5-1 on the season.

The winner of the series will advance to play Brownwood or Midland Greenwood in the regional quarterfinals. Brownwood and Greenwood will play a best-of-three series at Abilene Christian, with Game 1 at 11 a.m. Friday, Game 2 at 1 p.m. Friday and Game 3, if necessary, at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

Aubrey aiming for first regional quarterfinals since 2010

Aubrey has made a habit of advancing to the 4A area round under coach Nate Henry, and the Chaparrals accomplished that feat for the third consecutive year by sweeping Dallas Carter last week.

Aubrey will look to take the next step by advancing to the regional quarterfinals for the first time since 2010.

The Chaparrals claimed their first district championship since 2010 this season and will play Sunnyvale in a best-of-three series at Princeton with Game 1 set for 7 p.m. Thursday. Game 2 will be at 5 p.m. Friday and Game 3, if needed, will follow.

“It’s the third year in a row we’ve been to the area round, and we just keep building on that,” Henry said. “It’s a testament to the culture that’s being built with these guys, and they kind of expect it now. I was really proud of the guys this week. We continued to get better, and these should be some really good games this weekend.”

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Aubrey pitcher Zak Taylor (15) pitches to Melissa at Aubrey High School, Tuesday, April 16, 2019, in Aubrey, Texas.

Aubrey defeated Carter 12-1 and 10-0 behind a pair of strong performances from Parker Brogdon and Zak Taylor, who combined to allow five hits in nine innings. Taylor is 9-1 on the season while Brogdon improved to 5-2.

Henry said he is confident in Taylor, Brogdon and the Chaparrals’ stable of relievers as the team prepares to take on Sunnyvale. The No. 13 Raiders are 20-4-2 after sweeping Fort Worth Diamond Hill-Jarvis.

Sunnyvale finished second behind No. 12 Crandall in District 10-4A while competing at the 4A level for the first time. The Raiders advanced to the 3A regional quarterfinals last year.

The winner will play Kennedale or Melissa in the regional quarterfinals.

“It would be huge for us,” Henry said. “It would be another step for our program and the culture that we’re building. We haven’t gotten past the second round the last two years, so it’s time to take that next step if you want to be considered up there with those programs that advance to the third and fourth round every year.

“I think these guys can do it, and I have a lot of confidence in them that they will.”

Lake Dallas playing in first area-round series since 2016

As Lake Dallas coach Ryan Howard attempted to dry himself from a Gatorade bath after a 5-0 Game 3 victory over Grapevine that gave the Falcons their first bi-district championship since 2016, Howard had a simple message for his team: “We’re not done.”

Lake Dallas, which entered the playoffs as the No. 3 seed out of District 8-5A, will continue its playoff run against Fort Worth Arlington Heights in the area round of the Class 5A playoffs at Fort Worth Brewer. Game 1 is scheduled for Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

Game 2 will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Game 3, if needed, at noon Saturday.

“Our kids are really starting to feed off of the momentum,” Howard said. “You can see the confidence in them right now, and some of our guys are getting hot at the right time. We just have to keep playing our game and do what we do.”

Arlington Heights finished the regular season ranked 25th in 5A and cruised through District 6-5A with a 14-0 record. The Yellowjackets have a potent offense led by Izzy Lopez and Brennan Best, while Jonathon Castillo leads the way on the mound.

“They’re a good ballclub,” Howard said. “Just from talking around with a few people, I know they have good arms on the mound and swing the bat really well.”

Cade McCollum, Ryan Depperschmidt and Ben Price lead the pitching rotation for the Falcons. McCollum threw seven combined shutout innings in the series against Grapevine and hasn’t allowed a run since April 25.

After enduring a slump in the middle of district play, the Lake Dallas offense is starting to heat up. Ryan Hull led the Falcons against Grapevine, going 8-for-11 with four RBIs and four runs, while Connor Perry drove in three runs in Game 3.

The winner will take Frisco Centennial or Little Elm, who start a series at Burleson at 7:30 p.m Thursday.

“Some of our guys are probably looking back at the run they made in 2016 and are wanting to repeat it,” Howard said. “The fresher faces are just taking it one game at a time. No matter what, we’ll be ready to go come Thursday.”

— Contributing writer Bronte Hermesmeyer

Sanger rolls on to play Crandall

When Sanger coach Steve Ford went to watch Crandall play for the first time Saturday — the Pirates’ 5-0 bi-district win over Fort Worth Western Hills — he saw a team that reminded him of the top teams the Indians competed against in District 11-4A play.

Ford said he hopes what he saw will prepare the Indians for a best-of-three series, as the teams square off in a Friday doubleheader at 4 p.m. at Plano John Paul II.

Game 3, if necessary, will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at John Paul II.

“They do a lot of things that we do and showed some small ball [tendencies],” Ford said. “They remind me of everybody in our district, so it’s going to be a bloodbath.”

Ford said the emphasis in practice has been cleaning up little things, and the players have responded well to the extended season while bringing plenty of energy.

Going from one-game matchups in the first round to a series this week will put pressure on both Sanger’s and Crandall’s rotations, but Ford said his guys are up for the test on the mound and at the plate.

Trent White, Hagen Coin and Erik Lee pitched in Sanger’s first-round win over Dallas Pinkston and combined to allow just one hit in seven shutout innings. Cade Hamilton was the leader at the plate, going 2-for-2 with a home run, triple and two RBIs.

“We’re going to have to piece things together if it goes three games, but we’ve done it before,” Ford said. “Our arms have been great all year, though. It’s been our defense and our hitting that have let us down sometimes, but pitching has not been the issue, so we match up well pitching-wise.”

— Contributing writer Matthew Brune

Liberty Christian one win from state

Liberty Christian, the defending TAPPS Division I state champion, will continue its playoff run Wednesday, as the Warriors take on district rival Addison Trinity Christian in a one-game playoff at 6:30 p.m. at Dallas Baptist.

Liberty (23-13-1) advanced to the second round with a 12-0 win over Dallas Bishop Dunne on Thursday. Joe Wolf tossed a five-inning shutout and allowed just three hits while racking up seven strikeouts.

Brett Huff hit two home runs and finished 2-for-3 with six RBIs. The Warriors have won three of their last four games, and they won two of three against TCA (17-13) in District 1 play.

Liberty took the March 7 matchup 8-2, as Wolf threw a no-hitter and Creighton Hansen posted two RBIs for the Warriors. The Trojans won 3-0 on April 2 when Elijah Westover threw a shutout and allowed just two hits, and Liberty won 8-7 on April 5 thanks to a pair of seventh-inning RBIs from Huff and Jacob Hasty.

Wolf will take the mound Wednesday with a chance to improve to 2-0 against TCA.

“When Joe is on the mound, you know you’re going to get 150% effort,” Liberty coach Johnny Isom said. “When a kid gives you that, you can kind of live with whatever happens.”

The winner will advance to the state semifinals in Crosby to play Fort Worth Nolan Catholic or Fort Worth All Saints’ Episcopal. Liberty defeated Houston St. Thomas 8-4 in the semifinals last year before knocking off Beaumont Kelly Catholic 6-4 in the championship game.

“So many of these guys were a part of the team last year and it was a pretty magical season,” Isom said. “Getting back to Crosby has been their goal from about the day after we won it last year. They’d be pretty excited to have that opportunity.”

BRADY KEANE can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @BradyKeane.

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