ABILENE — After giving up three walks in the first inning of Wednesday night’s Game 1 matchup against Canyon, Argyle pitcher Chad Ricker wasted little time returning to the dominant form that solidified him as the team’s No. 1 pitcher this year.
Ricker, who threw a no-hitter last week against Brownwood, went six innings without allowing a hit Wednesday before Frank Russell came in to close out in the game with a hitless seventh to give Argyle a 9-0 victory in a Class 4A regional semifinal series at Abilene Christian.
Argyle (36-1-1) will have a chance to close out the best-of-three series in Game 2 at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Game 3, if needed, will follow.
“I’ve noticed in the playoffs that the umpires are getting a little tighter with the strike zone, so I need to sharpen up a little bit,” said Ricker, who has thrown 13 straight innings without allowing a hit. “I started getting ahead of batters in the second inning, and after that I just got into a groove.”
Ricker’s strong effort was complemented by a big night from ACU signee Hayden Clearman, who shined on the field where he’ll play on a regular basis next year.
Clearman hit a two-run single to right field in the bottom of the first to give Argyle the lead, and he finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs.
“As soon as I heard we were playing here, I was like, ‘Wow, this is awesome,” Clearman said. “I finally got to play at what will eventually be my home field, and it was a great experience. I came out feeling like I needed to perform, and luckily I did.”
Clearman’s first hit sparked the Argyle bats, as Preston King added to the lead with an RBI ground out in the second before Alex Gonzales had a two-run single to left in the third to make it 5-0.
Argyle nearly ended the game via the run rule with a five-run fifth. Cade Merka laid down a well-placed bunt with the bases loaded and used his speed and a full-extension dive to beat the throw to first. Bo Hogeboom had a two-run single to right, and King added an RBI ground out before Canyon got out of the inning.
“We had some line drives that were big for us,” Argyle coach Ricky Griffin said. “But I was really pleased with how we bunted. That put a lot of pressure on Canyon.”
Senior Sean Bolin, who has signed with Utah, will get the start in Game 2 as Argyle, the defending 4A state champion, looks to extend its playoff winning streak to 18 games. Bolin is 7-1 on the season with a 2.63 ERA.
“Chad had his command tonight, and we’ll expect the same thing out of Sean in Game 2,” Griffin said. “I’m confident in all three of our starters. I feel good — they’re doing what they’re supposed to do right now.”
Argyle 9, Canyon 0
Canyon 000 000 0 — 0 0 2
Argyle 212 040 X — 9 10 0
WP — Chad Ricker (10-0). LP — Zane Sparks (9-1). Records: Argyle (36-1-1), Canyon (22-10-1).
Iowa Park 1, Hereford 0
Chris Dickens allowed two hits in seven innings and racked up eight strikeouts to lead Iowa Park to a 1-0 win over Hereford in the first Class 4A Region I semifinal of the day at Crutcher Scott Field.
Dickens outdueled Hereford’s Carson Altman, who gave up just one run and four hits in six innings. The Hawks’ lone run came on an RBI groundout from Kaleb Gafford in the bottom of the fourth that scored Kade Thomas. Dickens took care of the rest, recording his eighth strikeout to end the game with the tying run on second base.
Iowa Park and Hereford will meet in Game 2 of a best-of-three series at noon Thursday. The winner of the series will play the winner of the Argyle-Canyon series in the 4A Region I final next week.
Iowa Park 1, Hereford 0
Hereford 000 000 0 — 0 2 0
Iowa Park 000 100 X — 1 4 1
WP — Chris Dickens. LP — Carson Altman. 2B — Iowa Park: Kaden Teafatiller, Hereford: Christian Mendez.