RED OAK — Despite the Hawks' near flawless fielding and efficient starting rotation and bullpen, their bats were silenced by Waxahachie High School on Friday night.
On Tuesday, though, they awoke, beating Mansfield Lake Ridge High School and its starting pitcher Austin Roth during the 3-2 victory at Buddy Groom Field.
"Losing is going to happen. It's a part of baseball. But as a team, you can't let a past game affect the next one," Hawk ace Erik Gipson said about the Friday loss. "The difference between Waxahachie and tonight was that we had a couple hits that fell [through the gaps] in clutch situations. When we faced Jackson (Leath), we were making contact but [the at-bats] weren't turning into base hits. Tonight, we had to wake up our bats and get a win. This was a big win for us, and hopefully, we can finish the week strong against Summit."
Red Oak (13-3-2, 2-1) entered the game looking for a rebound after splitting their first two district games to Mansfield Timberview's Wolves and Waxahachie's Indians. During the loss Friday, Leath and the Indians held Red Oak without a run, five hits in 24 at-bats and a quality at-bat percentage of 44 percent.
Gipson, who put down eight batters via vicious strikeouts, walked two batters and allowed three hits in 77 pitches and seven innings, helped hold Mansfield Lake Ridge scoreless for the first seven innings. He retired 11 of his first 13 batters through the first four innings.
During that stretch, Red Oak's batters — namely Milke, Brady Faulkner, Brandon Gibson, Ronnie Iracheta and Jordan Trotter — sacrificed, singled and doubled the Hawks to a 2-0 lead. Iracheta scored Trotter on a single in the bottom of the fourth and Gibson's sacrifice fly in the same inning scored Faulkner.
Despite Gipson's brilliance, the Eagles rallied to tie the game at two runs apiece in the seventh after scoring runs via a Zach Jackson walk, a Luke Potter triple and a Joey Lednicky sacrifice fly.
Lednicky, who entered the game in the bottom of the sixth in relief of Roth, seemed poised for his first win of the season. The two pitchers combined for 69 thrown pitches, 10 strikeouts, four hits, three runs and two walks and errors in 6.2 innings.
When the Hawks' chips were down, however, was when Gipson re-acquired his stride and the Hawk offense sparked to life.
Red Oak's starting hurler sealed his complete game performance by ending the inning on back-to-back Clay Casner and Talon Simmons strikeouts. Milke had arguably the biggest hit of the season.
"I just wanted to stay short to the ball, stay ahead in the count and no matter what — due to there being two outs — put the ball in play and hope good things would happen," Milke said.
Down two outs after Lednicky struck out Joey Rodriguez and Tyler Hearney hit a routine pop up, Red Oak's chances dwindled to one out and a single at-bat.
After Danny Garza, who stepped in as a baserunner after Lednicky walked Gibson then threw a wild pitch that put him 90 feet of home, Milke drove a second pitch strike through past MJ Sterling and sealed Red Oak's second district win.
"It was crazy," Milke continued. "After I hit the ball I was happy that it got through [the gap], that we settled the game and our team got the win."
Red Oak will look to move closer to contention for a District 10-5A title when they face Mansfield Summit High School at 7 p.m. Friday at Jaguar Field. The (7-14, 1-2) Jaguars won their first district game after beating Lancaster High School 13-1 Tuesday night.
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI.