Bryson Hudgens and Abby Buettner were as dominant as star players come on the diamond this season.

After a stellar freshman campaign a year ago, Buettner took her game to another level as a sophomore to lead Ryan to the regional quarterfinals while taking home District 5-5A MVP honors. Her numbers speak for themselves — a .615 batting average, 78 RBIs, 17 home runs and 45 stolen bases.

Hudgens had a tougher time standing out, at least in the regular season, while playing on an Argyle roster loaded with college-level talent. District 9-4A coaches selected him as a first-team all-district pick, but that may have undersold the importance of his role in the Eagles’ lineup. Hudgens finished the year hitting .417 with 43 RBIs and went 12-0 with a 1.06 ERA, coming up big when it mattered most in the Class 4A state championship game.

Those performances gave the duo an edge on the rest of an extremely talented pool of baseball and softball players in the Denton area, and Hudgens and Buettner were voted the Denton Record-Chronicle’s All-Area MVPs for baseball and softball, respectively.

2018 DRC All-Area Baseball Team

Hudgens is the fourth straight Argyle baseball player to win the award, joining Connor Mushinski, Tanner Boyzuick and Rixey Boyd.

“Being able to have my name placed among the best that have come through Argyle means a lot to me and definitely makes my senior year even better,” Hudgens said. “It’s a great honor to be chosen as MVP, and it shows everyone that Argyle baseball is no joke.

“I could have never been in the spot I am without the other 24 [Argyle players], because they put me in a spot to shine, and I owe them everything for that.”

On the road to the state tournament, Argyle coach Ricky Griffin used Hudgens as his starter in Game 1 of three-game series against Aubrey, Melissa and Kilgore. The Angelo State signee also started in one-game playoffs against Wilmer-Hutchins and Texarkana Pleasant Grove, going 4-0 in those five games.

Griffin adjusted his strategy for the state tournament, opting to throw Baylor commit Sean Bolin in the team’s semifinal against Jasper. Hudgens took the adjustment in stride and put together his strongest outing of the year against Sweeny, throwing a two-hitter to deliver the Eagles a state championship and just the fourth undefeated baseball season in UIL history.

“It’s everything I could have ever dreamed of,” Hudgens said. “I visualized being in a state championship game and pitching the best game of my life for so long that it almost felt like I had done it before. I was never thinking about us having a perfect season, and for that to happen was the icing on the cake of an unforgettable senior year.”

2018 DRC All-Area Softball Team

Buettner’s season didn’t end with a state title, but she helped lead Ryan to another year of prominence in Class 5A in her second year with the program. The Lady Raiders missed the playoffs for four straight years while winning a combined 10 district games prior to Buettner’s dad, Matt Buettner, taking over as head coach.

Ryan went 31-5-1 this season and claimed the District 5-5A championship, returning to the level of play the program experienced more than a decade ago when it advanced to the Class 4A state tournament in 2007.

“It was amazing to see everyone be so willing to come together and work,” Abby Buettner said. “It was an expectation — we knew we were good enough. We just had to go out there and prove it. There’s a sense of pride knowing that we helped build this program and it’s going to be long-lasting for those who come after.”

Buettner’s numbers towered over the competition in the Denton area and put her among the best players in Texas in 2018. The Maryland commit had a Dallas-Fort Worth best 17 home runs, and her 78 RBIs rank 13th in the National Federation of High Schools record books for a single season.

But with two years left to go, Buettner has her sights set on accomplishing something no Ryan softball team has — a state title.

“When I step on the field, my mentality on the outside world goes blank,” Buettner said. “I’m going out there to do my best and give it my all. I’m more comfortable on the field than anywhere else, and I’m confident in myself to go out there and perform. When I step in the box, it’s just ‘relax and go hit.’”

BRADY KEANE can be reached at 830-688-1877 and via Twitter @BradyKeane.

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