Baseball: They meet again

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David Minton/DRC
Argyle shortstop Austin Aune snags a grounder during Tuesday’s practice in preparation of tonight’s Game 1 of the Eagles’ playoff series against Prosper.

ARGYLE — It’s safe to assume Argyle and Prosper baseball fans will be busy today through Saturday.

The teams will meet in a best-of-three series beginning at 7:30 tonight at Frisco High School’s field for a chance to play in the Class 3A Region II semifinal round next week. Game 2 is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday, with Game 3, if necessary, set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

And given the fact that it’s Argyle and Prosper, and it’s the postseason, chances are, the series will be entertaining, and it won’t be a quick one.

“It would be a lot easier if we could run-rule some people [in the playoffs],” Argyle senior shortstop Austin Aune said in regards to his team’s history of dramatic playoff series. “But it kind of unifies the team a little. It also makes us more experienced further down the road for later series, too. You have to know how to play in pressure situations.

“The crowd likes it. It’s more fun and not boring. You don’t have to sit there and watch us kill somebody. I really think it makes us a better team.”

Aune, who has been starting at Argyle since he was a freshman and is headed to TCU to play football and baseball, knows all too well the team’s tendency to play drawn-out three-game series, testing its own players’ stress levels, as well as their fans’.

The Eagles (22-6) have a history against Prosper (28-4), eliminating Prosper from the playoffs the past two seasons in the area round, including last year when Prosper run-ruled Argyle in Game 1 before Argyle came back to win Games 2 and 3.

Argyle also has a pretty interesting history with Lovejoy, which Argyle beat in last week’s area round. Two years ago, with Aune on the mound in the seventh inning of the series’ deciding game, he fielded a soft roller back to the mound and flipped the ball over his head to catcher Jake Sizelove, who tagged out the potential tying run to end the game, and the series, putting the Eagles through to the regional semifinals.

Last season, Argyle beat Lovejoy in Game 1, and had the Leopards on the ropes in Game 2 before a Lovejoy rally and subsequent walk-off home run forced a Game 3, which Argyle went on to win with a last-inning home run.

Last Saturday, the drama continued between Argyle and Lovejoy.

The teams were supposed to play a best-of-three series, but the stormy weather changed the series’ format to a stress-filled one-game playoff, and it didn’t start well for Argyle.

Ace pitcher Drew Gooch, a sophomore who was unbeaten in the playoffs last year as a freshman, faltered in his 2012 postseason debut and had what pitchers dread — a bad night.

The result was a 5-0 deficit after two innings with five innings left to save their season, and the Eagles responded, beating Lovejoy 7-6 after a furious rally.

“Getting down 5-0 early was mentally disturbing,” junior catcher Dillon Harp said. “We’d never really been down like that in a big game before. The way we came back and showed that much heart was awesome. No one really freaked out.”

Barring any unforeseen bad weather, Argyle will get its preferred method of deciding postseason fate against Prosper, a team that has already beaten Argyle once this season in pre-district play when Prosper won 4-3 in walk-off fashion.

Despite that, and the fact that Prosper might be viewed as the favorite with a better record, Argyle head coach Ricky Griffin said having the game-tested players he has gives him confidence going into what is sure to be a tough series.

“That’s why we’ve had the success the last five years that we’ve had,” Griffin said of his players’ big-game experience. “Last year, that senior group had been starting since they were freshman and now it’s the same with Austin and Jay [Gonzalez]. It’s not like we start nine seniors and then take a year off to get guys reps. We’ve been able to start some young kids every year and cycle them through, and we always have those experienced kids.”

One advantage Argyle does have going into the series is that Prosper will be playing without its No. 2 pitcher, Brian Green, who was lost for the season with a shoulder injury in last week’s series victory over Aubrey.

That means Argyle likely will face Prosper ace Brandon Gibson, who has signed with TCU, in Game 1 tonight, with Prosper’s pitching depth in question after that.

Argyle will likely start Gooch — 5-1 with a 1.32 ERA during the regular season — tonight with two more successful starters, Seth Jones (7-1, 2.70) and Landon Rogers (5-1, 1.71) waiting for the second and possibly third game of the series.

“These nail-biters, I think that it comes down to the fact that we have good pitching every year,” Griffin said. “When you have that, you’re going to be in close ballgames.

“We haven’t had a lot of easy draws either that lets us relax. We’ve played Prosper the first round the last two years and then we had Lovejoy. If we’re fortunate to get past Prosper this year, we’ll have Texarkana Pleasant Grove [who has eliminated Argyle in the regional final the past two seasons].

“We just haven’t had a break where we’ve played a lesser talented team than us.”

And despite his bad outing Saturday, Aune said he and his teammates have all the confidence in the world in Gooch to come out and give his team the leg up after tonight’s game.

“It does put a lot of pressure on you when everyone is counting on you to have your best stuff and pitch the perfect game,” Aune said.

“With pitching, you either have a good day or a bad day. Even when Drew has a bad day, he keeps us in it. When he’s on, he’s on. He’s pretty much untouchable.

“We haven’t really gotten that from him this year yet, but hey, that can happen any time and we expect it to come. He keeps us in every game though, that’s the key.”

ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is aboedeker@dentonrc.com .

 


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