RED OAK — By beating Mansfield Timberview High School 6-3 in Tuesday's district opener at Buddy Groom Field despite being outhit 8-4 in six innings, the Hawks took a step toward proving they're a baseball force in the 10-5A standings.
Red Oak (12-2-2, 1-0) also may have shown Saturday's loss to Corsicana High School was a fluke.
The four hits from Brandon Gibson, Brady Faulkner, Jordan Trotter and Joey Rodriguez drove in five of the eight runs. Errors and wild pitches — specifically in the third and sixth — handed Red Oak three more.
The first and possibly most crucial of Mansfield Timberview's seven errors came in the bottom of the third and singlehandedly helped the Hawks first erase the deficit and then demolish it. After Gibson reached first base on a Bryce White fly ball error, Austin Dennie scored and Trotter moved into scoring position.
A batter later, Rodriguez crushed a single through the second base gap, scoring both Gibson and Trotter. That one Wolf misstep sparked a five-run swing and was the catalyst for five unanswered runs in the third and fifth innings.
While back-to-back RBI doubles by Trotter and Gibson — who each finished 1-for-3 from the plate — in the fifth and a RBI single by Faulkner in the sixth helped power the Hawks to a victory, it may have been the resurgent and resplendent pitching of Erik Gipson that was the true steadying force.
Despite allowing one of Mansfield Timberview's first two runs, four hits and a walk in the first three innings, Gipson struck out four of his next seven batters. The sole remaining run scored in the third inning came via a Rodriguez error.
Gipson outdueled his district counterparts, striking out eight batters, allowing eight hits and walking three with 100 pitches in six innings on the bump. Chase Jennings, who pitched an inning of relief, struck out one batter in 14 pitches.
Head Coach Jay Johnson's lineup, his ace and one of the most efficient teams in District 10-5A systematically dismantled Mansfield Timberview's duo of Cobb (4.1 innings) and Thomas (1.2 innings). They threw 107 pitches, struck out seven Hawks, committed two errors but allowed six runs on four hits and pitched only three walkless innings.
Their batters found quality at bats only 42 percent of the time at a 14 to 29 rate and hit into double plays twice. Mansfield Timberview fielders committed eight errors to Red Oak's two.
Red Oak will look to vie for the No. 1 position in the district when they face Waxahachie High School at 7 p.m. Friday at Richards Park. The (12-3,1-0) Indians, which won their district opener 3-2 against Mansfield Summit High School, are ranked No. 4 in the state per TexasBaseball.com and have won three of their last five games.
One of the two losses came to state-ranked Forney High School — a team Red Oak beat 3-2 on March 9. Red Oak split their 2016 series with Waxahachie, winning 11-5 on March 7 and losing 3-2 on April 5.
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI.