ARGYLE — Nine times out of 10, Argyle holds an advantage over its opponent before the two teams face each other.
The success the school has experienced often gives the Eagles a mental edge before a game is played, and that can be said for many of Argyle’s sports teams.
But for one of the few times, that edge will be negated when Argyle faces Texarkana Pleasant Grove this weekend in the Class 3A Region II semifinals. The best-of-three baseball series starts today at 7 p.m. at McKinney Boyd.
“I guess it’s similar to Gilmer in football,” Argyle head coach Ricky Griffin said. “They’re out there in front of you every year, and you know they’re going to be a tough out. Hopefully this could be the year that we get them.
“The biggest thing about playing a team like that is they’ve been in the state tournament six years in a row, and so their kids pretty much expect to be there. All we are is kind of in their way. So when you play a team that expects to beat you, and not hopes to beat you, it’s a big difference.”
Game 2 is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Northeast Texas Community College in Mount Pleasant. If necessary, Game 3 will be at 2 p.m. Saturday in Mount Pleasant.
Argyle’s football team has played Gilmer in the playoffs four straight seasons, and the Eagles topped Gilmer last fall on their way to the school’s first football state championship. Argyle’s baseball team and Pleasant Grove have developed a similar postseason rivalry.
This weekend’s playoff matchup will be the third time the two teams have met in the playoffs, with Pleasant Grove (24-10) winning the previous two series. The last time was in the Class 3A Region II finals, the deepest Argyle’s traveled in the playoffs.
In the most current Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association poll, Argyle is ranked fourth, while the Hawks are ranked eighth.
Argyle junior Hunter Markwardt said the Eagles (27-8-1) aren’t lacking in self-confidence coming into this weekend’s series.
“There’s all this talk about how good they are, but we know how good we are,” Markwardt said.
The winner of the series will play Melissa or Paris North Lamar in the regional final.
Argyle is coming off a series victory against Sanger in the regional quarterfinals. The Eagles dropped the first game of the best-of-three set before winning Games 2 and 3 on Saturday behind the pitching of senior Drew Gooch and Markwardt.
Gooch, a TCU signee, pitched in Game 2 and Markwardt won Game 3.
“I like the way we responded after losing the first game,” Griffin said. “I challenged them to play better defense and have better at-bats, and I thought we did both of those. Of course we got a good pitching performance out of [both Gooch and Markwardt], so that helped, too.”
Pleasant Grove won the 3A state title in 2012 and lost to La Grange in the 2013 title game. The Hawks graduated seven seniors from last year’s team.
Last week against Sanger, the Eagles committed seven errors in the three-game set. Griffin said Pleasant Grove has 10 total strikeouts in its last five games, so it’ll be up to his defense to make plays when the ball gets put in play.
“When the ball gets hit to us, we’re going to have to make a play and take the out,” Griffin said. “If you don’t, you give them extra outs and then they’re really tough to beat.”
Argyle sophomore shortstop Tanner Boyzuick said he was ready to take the field against the Hawks and extend Argyle’s season for at least another week.
“It’s really the only thing on my mind right now,” Boyzuick said. “I can’t even focus on school. It’s just what has me consumed right now.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.