RED OAK – What the Red Oak baseball team needed on Saturday was a small miracle. It got three.
Brandan McMillion gave a strong effort in the first game of the day against Bryan Rudder leading the Hawks to a 6-4 win to keep the team’s playoff hopes alive. In the deciding third game of the series, Drew Tyra dominated on the hill with five-plus strong innings setting the stage for Robert Elles to close things out for a 4-1 win.
With the victory, Red Oak moves past the bi-district round of the playoffs for the first time in the last five seasons. The Hawks will play Texas High later this week with a home game on Thursday and the final two games (if necessary) on Saturday in Texarkana.
“We wanted to go to prom happy man so we came out and we played hard, all 14 innings. We’ve been talking about it all week, yesterday we came out and practice hard,” McMillion said. “We’ve been focused. We’ve been thinking about this and it was our time, our time to get past the first-round.”
After dropping an error plagued opening game 9-5 in Bryan on Thursday, the two teams returned to the field on Saturday in Red Oak for the deciding games.
Needing a win in the first game of the day to stay alive, the team turned to McMillion for the must-win situation. What the junior delivered was one of his strongest performances of the season.
McMillion bounced back from a tough start in the first-inning by getting the Rangers to ground into an inning-ending double-play. After giving up five hits, three walks and two runners on base via error in the first four innings, McMillion settled in by allowing just one hit over the final three innings.
McMillion helped his own cause with an RBI single in the first inning and an RBI walk in the second that helped the team earn a 3-0 lead. After the Rangers scored three runs on two errors in the fourth, the Red Oak offense came to McMillion’s aide in the bottom of the fifth. Singles by Dylan Morales, Dillon Cartwright, Gabe Guzman, Alberto Hernandez and Elles plated three runs in the inning to help the team reclaim the lead, propelling them to the win.
That set the stage for game three of the series to decide who would advance to the area round of the playoffs. After warming up in the first game of the day for a potential relief appearance, Tyra got the nod for the series finale. The senior more than answered that call.
Tyra allowed just one hit in the first five innings while striking out five and issuing two walks.
“I was ready. I was pumped,” Tyra said. “I’m surprised. I didn’t think I could do that good. I really didn’t.”
Up 2-0 going into the sixth inning, Tyra ran into a little trouble when a walk and back-to-back base hits scored Rudder’s first run of the game. With two on and one out, the senior gave way to Elles, the game one starter, who came on for a shot at personal redemption.
Elles fell prey in the series opener to shoddy defense as the Hawks committed eight errors. In that game, he stepped aside for Tyra who pitched well. This time, the roles reversed as Elles allowed just two more Ranger batters to reach base over the final 1.2 innings.
Elles helped himself out with a double in the sixth inning that plated two runs to push the team’s lead out to 4-1 where it would end.
“He went to (Garrett Thomas) first and said, ‘Do you feel good?’ and Red was like, ‘Yea. But I think Rob should have the ball,’” Elles said. “It meant the world to me and I knew I had to put the whole team on my back and come out there and perform.”
After winning the first game of the bi-district series last season, the Hawks fell in back-to-back outings to fall short of advancing in the playoffs. This season, the team flip-flopped that scenario and are now on their way to an area round match-up.
Before taking the field for Saturday’s games, coach Heath Autrey addressed that very issue with the team. Their response left the veteran coach smiling.
“Actually we talked to our kids about that. Midlothian lost game one last year and they came back and won two games and so we actually used that to our advantage and talked to them about it. The kids played well today,” Autrey said.
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