ARGYLE — When JC Davis moved here six years ago, he knew baseball would be a part of his high school experience.
He, like any other aspiring athlete, hoped to play for a talented program and work toward the ultimate goal of winning a state title. But even the hopeful young shortstop didn’t predict the success the baseball program and Argyle as a whole would have in the years that followed.
“I never would have thought how competitive athletics would have been,” he said. “Everyone’s successful no matter what sport it is.”
In Davis’ seventh and eighth grade years, he watched the Argyle varsity baseball program win back-to-back Class 4A state titles, losing just one game in those two seasons. Then it was his turn to enter the program and continue that winning tradition, which was interrupted by the COVID-19 year before he and his classmates advanced to the regional finals as sophomores and the state finals as juniors.
Now graduated from Argyle with one final task ahead, Davis and his teammates are traveling to Round Rock to compete in the state tournament for the fourth time in the last five playoffs.
If becoming a Round Rock regular isn’t impressive enough, Argyle (34-10-2) managed to keep up the annual pilgrimage after moving up classifications this offseason. Argyle is competing in its first season in Class 5A and will have the chance to claim the first 5A team championship for the school this weekend.
Despite waltzing into the state tournament the last few years, Argyle’s experience in Class 5A was wildly different. It saw its season on the verge of ending multiple times throughout the playoffs and had to overcome losses far more often than it had in years past.
But the return to Round Rock — win or lose — caps a standout year for the high school across all athletic programs, showing its culture and talent transcend school size.
“We really haven’t changed our product. We really haven’t changed anything significantly that we’re doing,” said Todd Rodgers, athletic director and head football coach at Argyle. “We’re just doing the same old thing with a few more kids.”
‘There’s a lot of expectations’
Argyle’s wake-up call in 5A began in district play. It competed in District 7-5A, seeking its 13th consecutive district title, but couldn’t overcome Grapevine, which swept Argyle in an April series to claim the championship.
“I think it fueled everybody when we got second that we need to step it up if we want to finish our ultimate goal, which is to win state,” said senior catcher Hunter Sandifer.
Argyle’s road didn’t get much easier once it reached the playoffs. Four of its five playoff series were decided by an elimination Game 3. Twice Argyle fell into a 0-1 hole. It played six elimination games this postseason.
Argyle has lost 10 total games this season and hadn’t lost 10 or more since 2014 — ironically, another year it went to the state tournament.
But through that adversity, Argyle still managed to advance out of its region as one of the final four teams remaining.
Davis said he and his teammates expected the growing pains.
“I think this team really handled the challenges that we faced well,” he said. “It was something we weren’t used to last year. The team’s been really resilient. I think it shows a lot of heart.”
Argyle head coach Ricky Griffin attributed that resilience and heart to a few factors. First, the team returned the bulk of its talent. Juniors Colton Roquemore, Alex D’Angelo and Park Prater returned alongside senior Conor Lillis to lead the team at the plate. The team also added freshman phenom Grady Emerson, who finished third in batting average at .336.
Additionally, Griffin believes the nondistrict schedule his team played in 4A prepared it for a grueling district slate and playoff schedule in 5A.
“The biggest challenge for us was you have to get ready for a tough game every time you get onto the baseball diamond,” Griffin said about moving up. “Everybody has good pitching. Everybody has good hitters.”
Given the talent he knew he had, Griffin said his expectations were high from the start — both within the team and across the school.
“With that talent, there’s a lot of expectations,” Griffin said. “If you know what’s expected of you, most of the time you’re going to try to meet them. … Every sport expects to make deep runs in the playoffs. There’s a lot of pressure to make sure you are to the level of the other sports.”
‘Same Argyle, different class’
Argyle’s athletic success this season started well before the first pitch was thrown in February.
The football team reached the Class 5A Division II regional finals, losing to South Oak Cliff, the eventual state champion. Softball and volleyball both reached the third round of the playoffs. Girls basketball made the second round after going undefeated in district, and girls soccer earned a playoff berth. Even two boys pole vaulters finished in first and third place at state track and field.
“Same Argyle, different class,” Sandifer said.
However, none of the programs — except for the six-time state championship girls basketball team — has had the success baseball has in the last five years.
“Our program has kind of grown to where we’re going to expect to make a run every year,” Griffin said. “The goal is to obviously win a state championship. But I think the expectation is to get there. They’re disappointed if they’re not. We’re not going to have any moral victories about getting into the playoffs our first year in 5A.”
Griffin, who has been Argyle’s coach since 2008, has a chance to win his fourth state title. He and the program have also won two national titles during his tenure. A fourth title would tie Argyle for the fourth-most championships in state baseball history.
Argyle will have to get by Boerne Champion (33-11-1) first on Thursday to return to the state final on Saturday. But two wins this weekend could secure the 22nd UIL team state title in Argyle history.
The high expectations and winning standard at Argyle have carried into the start of its time in Class 5A. But Argyle expects to double in size over the next decade, meaning Class 6A could soon be in store.
Even after this year’s success and the promise all of Argyle’s programs have shown, those within the athletic department say sights are already set on how they can go up from here.
“We don’t want to be a one-hit-wonder,” Rodgers said. “We’re grateful for the success, but we know it’s gonna be a lot of hard work and dedication from our kids and us to maintain even what we’ve done this year.”
On Twitter: @Lassimak