ANNA – For those expecting a blow-out to unfold on Friday, May 17, when unbeaten Argyle faced Melissa in Game 1 of the Class 4A regional quarterfinals at the Anna Sports Complex, your expector may need a tune up. The Cardinals, after a shaky start, settled in this night to give No. 1 Argyle all they could handle before falling, 7-5. In short, the high-flying Eagles (31-0) built a 4-0 lead after three at-bats but needed to hold off two Melissa rallies for the win.
“We talked about it all week,” Cards head coach Jason Russell said. “It’s just about belief — belief in ourselves, belief that we can beat those guys. They’re a really good team, but they’re still a high school baseball team. Our guys bought in. I think there might have been a little bit of doubt early but as we started playing — and playing with them — I think you could see our confidence grow. We’ll come out tomorrow and we’ll give it everything we’ve got. And we’re looking to play three.”
Tate Whittington led Melissa (26-11) with the bat, ripping a double and triple in back-to-back plate appearances for 3 RBI. “That’s what we’re looking for in these games,” Russell said. “We need our seniors to step up and lead us. And he came through with some really clutch at-bats and scored some runs for us and knocked in some runs. I’m really proud of him. I’m proud of everybody.”
What did Argyle head coach Ricky Griffin expect out of Melissa, having run-ruled the Cards, 10-0, on March 9? “I expected that game,” he said. “I expected them to fight their tails off and make it tough on us and they did. … They’re real scrappy at the plate. They’re a team that if you give them a little bit of momentum, you better play well because they get on a roll. That’s kind of what happened tonight. But I’m not surprised by it at all. I promise you I didn’t expect to come over here and dominate them.”
Cards starter Andrew Cole overcame a tough 37-pitch first inning to give Melissa a fighting chance before giving way to Adam Davis in the fifth with Argyle up 4-2. Cole struck out two and permitted four hits with six walks. “He didn’t have his best stuff, he didn’t have his best command,” Russell said. “But he found a way to go out and give us some innings. And that’s what I told him after he had such a long first.”
Russell added, “We make one play in the first inning and it’s a completely different ball game right now. But that’s the difference. We’ve got to make plays. They made plays tonight.”
Davis worked two innings, allowing three runs on three hits and two walks with a strikeout. Brady Morrison then cruised through the seventh, giving up no runs and no hits with one K.
Melissa managed five hits in the contest while striking out nine times with six walks.
Argyle starter, big Bryson Hudgens, worked five innings, allowing three hits, five walks and two runs while striking out four. Tate Van Poppel, son of former major league pitcher Todd Van Poppel, came on in the sixth but lasted one out as the Cards popped for three runs on two hits and a walk. Hard-throwing Chad Ricker closed it out for the Eagles, striking out four over the final 1.2 innings, with no hits and no runs.
Argyle posted seven hits on the night, with none bigger than Austin King’s 3-RBI double in the fifth to give the Eagles a 7-2 lead. King tallied 5 RBI all told, going 2-for-4 at the plate.
The Eagles struck for three runs in the top of the first, all of them coming with two outs. That second out came on Morrison’s diving grab of a line drive to left and Cole, with two on via walks, had looked to be on the verge of getting out of the inning. But on a 1-2 pitch to Hudgens, the Argyle hurler popped a shot toward shallow left and as shortstop Isaiah Segovia leapt to squeeze it for Out 3, the Eagle baserunner leaving second appeared to distract just enough and the ball bounced off Segovia’s glove and into left field allowing a run to score. Another walk loaded the bases for King who sent an 0-2 offering into center field and Argyle led, 3-0.
In Melissa’s first, Tyler Womack drew a two-out walk and Davis singled to left but Hudgens shut the door, coaxing a ground-out to short. Cole breezed through the second frame on 10 pitches, highlighted by Morrison firing to second to get Brenden Dixon trying to stretch a single to a double. The play was sandwiched between two fly-ball outs to Whittington in right.
The Eagles added a run in the third and win No. 31 for Argyle looked likely. That score came on a tough ball deep in the hole to Segovia that got into left field, plating Dillon Carter who’d walked and stole second and third. After third baseman Krisjon Segleski scooped a bunt and threw out a runner at third, Cole ended the threat with a strikeout.
Melissa got something going in the bottom of the third with two outs and Whittington at first, having walked on four pitches. Whittington stole second and Womack and Davis walked to load the bases. Morrison’s sharp single to left then brought Whittington home with the Cards’ first run. But with Womack and Davis in scoring position, Hudgens fanned the next batter.
In Argyle’s fourth, the Eagles had two on and two out when Ricker sent a deep blast to center field causing Sean Turnage to get on his pony and head for the fence. As Argyle fans savored the sure two-run moment, Turnage reached up and nabbed the deep out over his shoulder.
Whittington kept up the Cards’ energy in the bottom of the frame with his two-out double to the left-field fence, scoring Segovia. That two-bagger could’ve plated another run if not for second baseman King’s all-star play on a line drive to right by Cole to open the half-inning. That ball looked like a sure single but King closed on it, dive-stabbed it and fired to first for a highlight reel out.
Now down, 4-2, with Cole approaching his 110-pitch limit, Davis took over to start the fifth. After a rope single to center and two walks, Russell visited the mound. King then stepped in and barreled his three-run crusher to left and Argyle was back in charge. A bunt to Cole, then at third, ended the Eagles’ roll. Davis worked a scoreless sixth, setting the stage for Melissa’s final push.
With Van Poppel on the mound in the sixth, Trevor Brooks’ single to shallow center followed a walk to Cole. Then with one out, Whittington’s three-base rocket to right drew the Cards to within 7-4. Houston then laid down a textbook bunt toward first base, scoring Whittington from third. That run brought on Ricker, who stopped Melissa’s attack with a strikeout.
Morrison’s solid relief stint in the seventh gave the Cards one more shot to shock Class 4A baseball’s railbirds — but Ricker would strike out the side.