ARGYLE — Argyle head coach Ricky Griffin still remembers when a news helicopter descended on Frisco’s field on the eve of the Class 2A state baseball tournament.
Griffin got a rare text from his former head coach at Frisco, Scott Cook, to remind him of that day in 1984, a prelude to the event coaches and players dream of all season.
Throughout the week, Griffin’s fielded questions about what the state tournament will be like. The Eagles do not have to wait any longer to have those questions answered firsthand.
Argyle faces Sinton at 1 p.m. today in the Class 3A state semifinals. The winner of today’s contest at Austin’s UFCU Disch-Falk Field will face College Station or Lubbock Cooper in Thursday’s state final at the same venue.
“We made the goal a long time ago that this program eventually needed to get to Austin,” Griffin said. “Now that we’re there, you don’t want them to think, ‘Yeah! We’re the first team that did it.’ I have the feeling that they plan on going up there to win two games. Now, I’m not saying the other teams don’t think that, too, but you want your team to think that.”
The Eagles (31-9-1) will try to make the most of the first state trip for a Class 3A Region II team outside of Texarkana since 2005.
Sinton is no stranger to the state tournament. The Pirates (25-9-2) are making their eighth state tournament appearance. Seven of those have come under the guidance of head coach Gene Kasprzyk, who is in his 29th year at the school.
Argyle hasn’t missed the playoffs since Griffin took over in 2008, but twice the Eagles were knocked out of the playoffs by Texarkana Pleasant Grove in the regional finals. This time around, Argyle dispatched Pleasant Grove in the regional semifinals and swept Paris North Lamar in a best-of-three series to reach the state tournament.
Argyle will start senior left-handed pitcher Drew Gooch. Gooch, a TCU signee, is 9-0 this season with a 0.66 ERA. In the postseason, Gooch is 5-0 with a 0.93 ERA in 30 innings.
Griffin said he sits a lot easier on the bucket beside the Argyle dugout when Gooch has taken the mound for the Eagles over the last four years.
“When he’s on the mound, there’s just a relaxed feeling that I get. I think the kids behind him feel that, too,” Griffin said.
Argyle could face Sinton senior pitcher Trey Burk, who is 9-1 on the season with a 0.48 ERA and is headed to Coastal Bend College. In front of about 3,000 people in Edinburg, Burk took a shutout into the seventh inning of Sinton’s Game 1 loss to Hidalgo in the Region IV finals.
The Pirates also have freshman pitcher Jordan Martinez (7-1, 1.58 ERA) at their disposal. Sinton senior shortstop Donivan Lopez, a Texas Tech signee, leads the Pirates at the plate. He’s batting .472 with three home runs and 20 RBIs.
Sinton went undefeated in District 30-3A, mirroring what Argyle did in District 10-3A play. Prior to the loss to Hidalgo, Sinton won 17 games in a row.
Kasprzyk said that in the end a loss to Hidalgo might have been good for his team.
“I felt like we handled the pressure of the situation and played pretty well in a pretty hostile environment, so that was a positive for us,” Kasprzyk said. “We came back on Saturday, closer to home, and things went our way.”
Argyle left fielder Tyler Gibson will be one of eight seniors who will be missing their high school graduation. While the rest of their classmates graduate today, the seniors will have to wait until they get back from Austin.
With two more wins, the seniors can make the best baseball season in Argyle history even better.
“It’s really heart-racing,” Gibson said. “It’s really special, especially for being the first ones from Argyle.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.
ARGYLE VS. SINTON
Head coach: Ricky Griffin
Road to state: d. Bridgeport, Princeton, Sanger, Texarkana Pleasant Grove, Paris North Lamar
The breakdown: Take a quick glance at that road to state, and look at the team the Eagles beat two weeks ago. Argyle’s win over Pleasant Grove paved the way for last week’s victory against North Lamar and gave Argyle a lot of confidence going into the state tournament. Argyle will be especially confident knowing TCU-bound LHP Drew Gooch will be starting against a strong Sinton squad. Gooch hasn’t lost all season, and while he didn’t have his best stuff against North Lamar, he still pitched six scoreless innings. Argyle junior Cutter McDonald has been crushing the ball this postseason, going 14-for-29 (.483) with 10 RBIs and six extra-base hits.
Head coach: Gene Kasprzyk
Road to state: d. Carrizo Springs, Zapata, Devine, Yoakum, Hidalgo
The breakdown: Sinton’s no stranger to the state tournament. Kasprzyk has been at Sinton for 29 years and taken the Pirates to seven of its eight state tournament appearances. Sinton’s best hitter is senior shortstop Donivan Lopez, who has signed with Texas Tech and is batting .472 on the season. He’s also 5-0 on the mound this season. In front of roughly 3,000 people, senior Trey Burk (signed to Coastal Bend College) pitched Game 1 of Sinton’s Region IV final series against Hidalgo and took a shutout into the seventh inning but got a no-decision.
LUBBOCK COOPER VS. COLLEGE STATION
Lubbock Cooper Pirates
Head coach: Terry Baxter
Road to state: d. Amarillo River Road, Sweetwater, Andrews, Liberty Hill, Iowa Park.
The breakdown: For a while, it didn’t seem like Cooper had any shot of making the state tournament for the second straight season. The Pirates lost 14 of their first 19 games, and a squad that was missing many of the key components from the 2013 state run looked like it was in danger of missing the postseason. But Cooper started playing well at the right time and will be Region I’s representative in Austin. Senior pitcher Tanner Doucette (10-2) leads the Pirates on the mound, while sophomore left fielder A.J. Perez (.383) and Braden Hayward (.345) lead Cooper at the plate.
College Station Cougars
Head coach: Scott Holder
Road to state: d. China Spring, Diboll, Robinson, Huffman Hargrave, Silsbee
The breakdown: There’s a reason why the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association ranked a team with no seniors first in 3A polls all season. The Cougars have six (yes, six) Division I prospects — OF Ryan Johnson (TCU), P MacGregor Hines (Florida), C Baylor Rowlett (Oklahoma State), OF Cody Staab (Rice), P Kyle Richardson (Texas A&M). Richardson, a sophomore, has an 8-1 record on the season. He’s also batting .301. Rowlett leads the team with a .454 batting average. If Richardson starts Wednesday and Cooper wins, Hines could get the start in the final.