ARGYLE — The athletic talent at Argyle High School this year has been nearly unprecedented for a school its size.
The Eagles’ state championship football team sported five players who will go on to play at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, a Division I track athlete and a junior who is committed to Arizona State in football.
In the same way, Argyle’s baseball team is blessed with some talent uncharacteristic of a school in Class 3A, as the Eagles will sport a two-man pitching rotation comprised of Big 12-bound players and open the season with a No. 7 ranking in the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association Class 3A state poll.
Drew Gooch, a TCU signee, is entering his fourth year as a starter, and Parker Mushinski prepares to be a full-time starting pitcher for the first time after signing with Texas Tech in the fall.
“It helps us a lot,” Mushinski said of the pitching depth, which stretches to the Eagles’ fourth or fifth starters. “You can’t be perfect every game, but if you can fight through four innings, if you’re struggling, then you have someone to back you up that you have confidence in.”
The plan, though, is for Gooch and Mushinski to not have too many struggles on the mound. Last season, when Argyle was eliminated in the regional quarterfinal, Gooch was 10-2 with a 1.23 ERA and a save as the Eagles’ No. 1 starter. Mushinski was 5-1 with a 2.26 ERA mainly in relief, with spot starts in tournament play and in the postseason.
“It’s great to have that depth,” Gooch said. “We’ve had it all the time. We’ve just never used it as much as we will this year. That’s a big thing to have.”
Argyle head coach Ricky Griffin know he’s fortunate to have the power arms he does to form a 1-2 punch unlike many others in the Eagles’ classification, but he also knows he’s had the same luxury before and not seen the results he wants — a state championship.
What’s plagued the Eagles in the past has been making big mistakes late in games. There were two trips to the regional final in 2011 and 2012 — both losses to Texarkana Pleasant Grove. The Eagles were one out away in 2012 from advancing to the state tournament before seeing a possible sweep slip away and eventually losing in three games.
Last season had the same result, as Argyle seemed poised to sweep Melissa before a late-game collapse forced a Game 3 the Eagles eventually lost.
Griffin said he knows his team must excel in all areas, not just on the mound, which hasn’t been a problem in recent years.
“This year we have two established pitchers that when they go on the mound, we’re expected to win,” Griffin said. “That’s great, but we’ve had good pitching before. The difference is going to have to be with the other guys. We’re going to have to play solid defense, and we’ve done that throughout scrimmages.”
“We have better pitching this year than we’ve ever had, without a doubt. Even with that, it’s going to come down to making plays in the crucial part of the game.”
To help matters defensively, Griffin has shifted his infield around as senior Brandon Boyzuick has moved from shortstop to second base to make way for his brother, sophomore Tanner Boyzuick at shortstop.
Tyler Gibson, Argyle’s starter at second base a year ago, has moved back to where he’s most comfortable in left field, and Rixey Boyd has moved up from the junior varsity to play third base. The Eagles also got a move-in catcher who is expected to step right into the cleanup spot in the order and provide a solid backstop in Ryley Balch.
But the old baseball adage suggests the other end of the winning equation from defense is pitching, and Argyle has it in spades, led with the seasoned Gooch.
“The biggest thing is how the team reacts when he’s on the mound,” Griffin said. “They show up and see his name on the lineup and they expect to win. ... When Drew goes to the mound, if we don’t win, they’re surprised. And that hasn’t happened very often since he’s been here.”
In Gooch’s third playoff appearance as a freshman, he tossed a three-hit shutout against Pleasant Grove to take a Game 1 victory in the regional final, and ever since then, it’s been clear Gooch would be in this position as a senior.
“I do feel like I’m ready to lead the team,” Gooch said. “Playing in those big games really taught me to be calm and relaxed through every start.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.