ENNIS – What Robert Elles did during Saturday’s first game against Waxahachie didn’t settle in until it was all done. Even then, it took others talking with him.
Elles pitched a complete game gem allowing just three hits and five walks while striking out four of the Indian batters. He then sent a pitch over the right field wall in the bottom of the third inning for a solo home run that proved to be the only run for either team, as Red Oak notched a 1-0 win in a playoff seeding game. The Hawks would go on to fall 4-3 to Forney in the second game of the day, settling for a No. 3 seed in the upcoming bi-district round of the playoffs.
“I didn’t really feel it until everybody started saying thank you at the end of the game. Everyone was telling me great job and stuff,” Elles said. “That was really good. I’m just tired.”
After splitting the regular season series with the Indians and sweeping the series with Forney, the three teams found themselves in a tie for second-place after Waxahachie ended Mesquite Poteet’s 59-game district win streak with a win on Friday. That set up the three-team tournament to determine who would land in what spots for the playoffs.
Needing a win to ensure themselves of a second or third seed, the Hawks turned to Elles for the first game. He responded with a solid performance on the hill, throwing 59 of his 99 total pitches for strikes. Waxahachie’s Chase Rudolph and Seth Sims were the only two players to have truly successful days against Elles. Rudolph notched two of the team’s three hits, both singles, while Sims had the other single and walked once. Cody Brown also drew two of the team’s five walks.
In the tightly contested game, Elles helped his own cause by taking a pitch out of the park for his first home run since April 12 against Terrell.
“He really came out and pitched well. He walked some guys but he pitched out of some jams once again and made pitches when he needed to,” coach Heath Autrey said. “He had some good at-bats and they kept throwing him breaking balls and he sat on one and he hit it. It just took that one run. Again he located his change-up well and I was proud of him for his effort.”
Beating Forney three times in one season turned out to be just a little too much for the Hawks to accomplish in the final game of the day. Red Oak opened with a 3-0 lead in the second inning as Alberto Hernandez and Zach Gonzales plated an RBI each.
That lead lasted until the fourth when Forney tied the game off pitcher Brandan McMillion. The senior hurler went four innings, throwing just 35 pitches, 24 of which were for strikes. He gave way to Drew Tyra, who went the final two innings but did allow the go-ahead run to cross bottom of the sixth on an error.
Red Oak’s offense found no answer for that in the top half of the seventh resulting in the team’s first loss to the Jackrabbits this season. The toll of playing three games in less than 24 hours finally began to hit the Hawks and several players became sore due to being hit by pitches and others started cramping up. That coupled with strong defense from Forney sent the Hawks to a third-place finish.
“We’re happy that we’re in. In this district, that’s a great accomplishment,” Autrey said. “We played 14 innings (on Saturday) and gave up four runs. That’s an accomplishment in itself.”
Now Red Oak turns its attention to Bryan Rudder, the No. 2 seed from District 16-4A. The Rangers entered its final game with Henderickson needing a win to tie for the district title but fell 10-3 to place second.
Rudder finished the district season with an 10-2 record. While a higher seed would have been a boost, the Hawks are ready to take on whatever is thrown at them in the playoffs.
“I’m disappointed we’re No. 3. It was such a close game this last game but you play the hand you’re dealt and we’ve got to keep rolling with it,” Elles said.
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