ABILENE — Iowa Park handled the middle of Argyle’s batting order as well as any team has in Wednesday night’s Class 4A Region I final.
But the Hawks, like many teams, quickly discovered there just isn’t a weak spot on a star-studded roster that features 10 players who have either committed to or signed with Division I programs.
Left fielder Alex Gonzales, who is committed to Baylor and hits in the No. 7 hole for the Eagles, was the one to step up in a big way with Argyle’s season on the line, as he went 2-for-3 with a triple and a solo home run.
Gonzales’ performance powered the Eagles to a 2-0 win over the Hawks and pushed the defending state champions, who have won 26 consecutive games, on to the 4A state tournament for the second consecutive year.
“You hear a lot about all of our seniors, but our two runs came from two juniors,” Argyle coach Ricky Griffin said. “That’s what makes this team so special. We have a lot of good baseball players up and down the lineup, and I don’t think they let you take a breath. Tonight, it was them.”
While Gonzales and Texas A&M commit Cade Merka, who had an RBI single after Gonzales’ triple, were the offensive heroes, Texas-San Antonio commit Chad Ricker continued his streak of dominance on the mound in the biggest start of his career.
Ricker, who entered the night having thrown 14 consecutive hitless innings, threw another no-hitter to extend his streak to 21 innings without a hit. He needed 96 pitches to get through seven innings and had four strikeouts and four walks in the win.
When Iowa Park did threaten to score, Argyle’s defense made a handful of key plays to keep Ricker’s streak intact. Texas signee Brenden Dixon made a nice play on what would have been an RBI infield single from Kase Johnson in the fifth, and Dixon turned a 6-3 double play to end the sixth.
“It feels great,” Ricker said. “I didn’t mind the walks tonight. I was kind of pitching around their better hitters. If they got out, they got out. But if they walked, I’d just get the next guy. It worked out. I think we have the best defense in the country — they’re going to make those plays.”
Argyle and Iowa Park were the state’s only teams, regardless of classification, to play a one-game playoff in the regional finals, giving the Eagles plenty of time to prepare for next week’s state tournament at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin.
The 4A semifinals will be held at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Wednesday, with the state championship game set for 6:30 p.m. next Thursday.
“It’s a relief,” Gonzales said. “But from now on, it’s all one game. We just have to keep clicking like we are.”
Argyle 2, Iowa Park 0
Argyle 011 000 0 — 2 8 1
Iowa Park 000 000 0 — 0 0 0
WP — Chad Ricker (11-0). LP — Chris Dickens (13-2). 2B — Argyle: Brenden Dixon, Austin King. 3B — Argyle: Alex Gonzales. HR — Argyle: Alex Gonzales.