Argyle Eagles & Liberty Christian Defend Their State Titles

Argyle Eagles & Liberty Christian Defend Their State Titles

Argyle Eagles & Liberty Christian Defend Their State Titles

by Steve Gamel

 

When the Argyle Eagles take the field for the 2019 season, head coach Ricky Griffin will have all his guys line up in the same spots as last year. After all, practically everyone is back from his state championship team, which finished 37-0. “I’m scared to death to change anything,” Griffin said with a laugh. “If you do that, it looks like you are overthinking things.” Why try to fix something that’s broken? That’s the mentality that is not only shared by Griffin and his Eagles but also nearby Liberty Christian. Both programs won state titles last year and, while nothing is a guarantee in the game of baseball, both appear to have all the pieces to make a run at defending those titles.

They also have tradition in their corner. It was Argyle’s second Class 4A state title since 2015 and its third trip to the state tournament in the last five seasons. Liberty won its fourth TAPPS state championship and first since 2013. “I think we are both built very similar,” Liberty coach Johnny Isom said. “It’s a big team environment at Argyle and here; you have to have kids who will play for each other, and you need talented players as well. There are big targets in Argyle.”

Argyle has 10 players who have signed or committed to Division I programs returning, including Chad Ricker (UTSA), Hayden Clearman (Abilene Christian), Alex Gonzales (Baylor), Cade Merka (Texas A&M), Sean Bolin (Utah), Bo Hogeboom (Houston), Austin King (Texas Rio Grande Valley), Preston King (UTRGV), Brenden Dixon (Texas), and Dillon Carter (TCU). The Eagles finished with a perfect 37-0, becoming just the fourth UIL baseball team to finish a season undefeated. The last time it happened was in 2003 when Lorena went through an entire season unscathed.

Argyle’s season of dominance included 20 wins by 10 runs or more. Several of those regular-season wins came against teams in higher classifications. The only glaring difference in their lineup this year is the loss of state title game MVP pitcher Bryson Hudgens, though Ricker is expected to take his spot and create another solid 1-2 punch with Bolin. Ricker was 7-0 with a 0.36 ERA and 58 strikeouts in just 39 innings on the mound last year while also hitting .369 with 32 RBIs and 34 runs scored. “We are going to do the exact same thing as we did last year in terms of going out and trying to win games,” Griffin said. Liberty Christian has five returning starters and should be even more dominant on the mound with the addition of Jacob Hasty. Hasty, an LSU signee, led TAPPS with 97 strikeouts last year before transferring from Fort Worth Christian to Liberty at the start of this school year. Joe Wolf returns after turning in a TAPPS-best 0.32 earned run average.

Offensively, Huff and Hansen were two of Liberty’s more dominant hitters alongside Pryor Thomas (Harvard). The Warriors have six players committed to play college ball. “We are pretty blessed with the arms we have, and there’s a lot more behind that with guys like Brett Huff (Harvard) and Creighton Hansen,” Isom said. “All of these guys want to be the guy who gets the ball first. We haven’t declared anyone yet as an ace, but they will all be in the mix.” Isom added, “I think these kids are confident that they can go out there and do some special things.”


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