When No. 1 Argyle broke the huddle with their 4A State Championship trophy held high, they shouted “The 24”.
The 25-man roster bought into their season motto and played every game, every inning, every pitch for the other 24 members on the roster, and that comradery led the Eagles to make history.
With a 5-0 defeat of No. 7 Sweeny (35-6) on Thursday night at Disch-Falk Field in Austin, Argyle (37-0) became the first team in 15 years to win a state championship with a perfect record.
“[It feels] surreal,” Argyle head coach Ricky Griffin said. “Every time a big situation came up, ‘The 24’ came into their mind, and it did it over and over and over, 37 times. [Tonight] it was being yelled from the dugout, ‘take a 24 at-bat right here’… and that’s what we did. We scouted [Sweeny] last night after our semifinal game, and I was nervous. They’re impressive. I’m glad we won.”
For the first five innings, the game was a pitcher’s duel. Sweeny starter Ty Ringo, who threw 16 pitches in relief in the semifinal, held the Eagles to just four hits through those five innings and Argyle senior pitcher Bryson Hudgens only allowed two.
But in the top of the sixth, the dam broke. Junior Brenden Dixon opened the frame with a triple to deep right-center field. Griffin called it a gamble to have him stretch for third, but an errant throw by Sweeny shortstop Caden Homniok sailed into the camera well and Dixon was awarded home to score the first run of the game.
Ringo got the next batter to fly out to right, but then gave up consecutive singles to juniors Chad Ricker and Dillon Carter and a huge two-RBI, stand-up double to Hudgens to put Argyle on top 3-0 with one out. That marked the end of Ringo’s night and junior Jackson Kiddy came on in relief.
“Going up to the plate I already knew I’d smoked it twice, I was seeing the ball really well and I was looking for the exact pitch I got,” Hudgens said. “The feeling on second was one of the best feelings ever.”
Kiddy hit the first batter he faced and then walked the next two to score pinch runner Jake Sullivan. Sophomore Cade Merka then recorded his second hit of the game for an RBI single to left to make it 5-0. Dixon hit into a 5-3 double play to end the onslaught.
With a comfortable lead and six outs to go, Hudgens went back to the mound. He’d been Argyle’s go-to guy for the first game of each playoff series, but because of a tired shoulder he’d been fighting through, Griffin decided to start junior Sean Bolin in the semifinal.
“I think when I said we’d throw Bolin in the first game down here, I think it lit a fire,” Griffin said. “He said you get me to the state championship game and I’ll show you why you throw me first, and he showed me.”
Hudgens retired the next five batters he faced before hitting junior Blake Benavides with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. He then got junior Joe Effenberger to groundout to third to end the game. Hudgens was remarkable on the mound, throwing a complete game, two-hit shutout with three strikeouts and no walks. He also went 2-for-3 with 2 RBI at the plate to earn the Most Valuable Player Award.
“I’ve been dreaming about this, praying about this,” Hudgens said. “I’m not going to strike out a ton of guys… but with our infield playing like they were and our outfield catching every ball hit, I knew it was going to work. With two outs I definitely started smiling and that’s when I pegged that dude with probably the fasted pitch of my game and I was like ‘alright, I have to bring it back’. I didn’t even feel like I had to throw my best, but I feel like I did throw the best I’ve ever thrown, because I knew they’d be there.”
This game is the 21st shutout win of Argyle’s historic, incredible season. And to make it even more impressive, Hudgens is the only senior in the starting lineup and one of five on the roster. The Eagles look poised to continue being one of the top teams in 4A, and the nation, for years to come.
MVP and THSB Player of the Game: Bryson Hudgens, 7 IP with 3 K, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB and went 2-for-3 with 2 RBI at the plate