AUSTIN — After recording 63 outs without allowing a hit, the talk entering Argyle’s Class 4A semifinal against La Vernia surrounded senior Chad Ricker.
Ricker, a calm, cool and collected pitcher, never paid much attention to the streak, though.
After losing his no-hit streak two batters into Wednesday’s game, the Eagles’ ace battled a strong Bears lineup and a tight strike zone but still managed to keep La Vernia scoreless. Argyle (39-1-1) led just 3-0 through three innings, but the Eagles’ offense — thanks in large part to Ricker — broke the game open in the fourth.
Argyle scored 13 runs in the inning and went on to win 16-0 in a five-inning game shortened due to the run rule.
“No one talked about [the streak] and I didn’t even think about it,” Ricker said. “I was just trying to get a win and get to the championship with my team. We knew they were better hitters, so my command had to be a little better today. [The umpire] was squeezing me, but I just had to overcome that and battle, so I let them put it in play and my guys made outs for me.”
Ricker needed just 70 pitches to get through five innings, finishing with four hits, three walks and one strikeout. His experienced defense was once again polished, failing to commit an error in the win.
Left fielder Alex Gonzales made a key diving catch with no outs and runners on first and second in the top of the fourth to prevent La Vernia from getting on the board.
While he was waiting for his offense to open up the lead, the pressure remained on Ricker. His composure stayed steady until the breakthrough happened in the bottom of the fourth.
Ricker finished with a team-high three hits and three RBIs while bouncing back from his 0-for-4 performance in the regional final against Iowa Park. Argyle combined for 12 hits and four walks.
“He’s a battler,” Argyle coach Ricky Griffin said. “He’s only throwing 86 or 87 [mph], but he moves the ball around and just keeps the ball off their barrel. He’s OK with guys being on base every once in a while and he’s not going to let their best hitters beat him, and that’s what he did today.”
While a lack of strikeouts kept the Eagle defense on its toes, Ricker settled in and forced several routine pop outs.
Ricker’s record improved to 12-0 on the season, putting the Eagles in position to secure their second consecutive state championship. He’ll start the state title game at first base when Argyle takes on Sweeny at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
“I have the best defense behind me that I could ask for, and they made all the plays, then our momentum got going at the plate and we couldn’t stop,” Ricker said. “Getting the win one last time on the mound for this school is amazing, and it lets us try for back-to-back championships.”