RED OAK – When the game started, Red Oak was in an all-too familiar situation of playing catch-up. When the night ended, the Hawks were in a place they aren’t accustomed to – in control.
Down 2-0 after two innings, Red Oak mounted a rally against Texas High earning a 6-3 win to take control of the area playoff series. The team now owns a one-game lead in the best-of-three series with one win on Saturday standing between them and a regional quarterfinal berth.
“First inning we went out one, two, three and we responded big time. Usually the tradition at Red Oak baseball is once you get down, you stay down,” senior shortstop Garett Thomas said. “These guys really showed a lot of heart and we really picked it up. We really showed them what the new Red Oak baseball is about.”
Texas High plated a run in each of the first two innings but the Hawks responded with two runs of their own in the second inning to force a deadlock.
After starting pitcher Brandan McMillion held the Tigers off the board in the third, Red Oak went to work on turning that frustration into a lead. Thomas plated the first run of the inning on a double bringing fellow senior Robert Elles in to score. McMillion helped his own cause with an RBI groundout later in the inning for a 4-2 lead.
In somewhat of a surprise move, coach Heath Autrey pulled McMillion after the fourth inning inserting senior Drew Tyra who won game three of the bi-district series to keep the team alive in the playoffs. McMillion had held the Tigers to two hits and two runs with five strikeouts over four innings of work.
Tyra opened his time on the hill with a strikeout but gave up a solo home run in the next at-bat. While the rest of his outing was far from flawless, he settled in to allow four more hits over the final three innings while striking out six.
The Red Oak offense gave him added run support after that home run by scoring two more runs in the bottom of the fifth on an error during Dylan Morales’ at-bat and an infield single by Gabe Guzman.
“I was really proud of our effort at the plate. I thought offensively we had some pretty good approaches and we put some good swings on the ball and capitalized on a couple of mistakes they made on defense,” Autrey said.
Despite the lead, Tyra and the Hawks had to work out of a big jam in the seventh inning as a double, walk and single with two outs threatened to force a tie game. The final batter Tyra faced was all that stood between him and another plate appearance with Texas High’s previous home run hitter.
Luckily, he found a way to pick up a game-ending strikeout and preserve the win.
“I didn’t want to face that guy again. The guy who hit the bomb,” Tyra said with a laugh.
Now the series shifts to Texarkana for at least one game on Saturday. If Red Oak wins the first game of the day, the Hawks advance while a loss will force a rubber match later in the day.
One thing is certain, the Red Oak bats have come alive since starting the playoffs. The team has scored at least four runs in every playoff game with nine-plus hits in each of the four games. In the three-game win streak, the offense has averaged 9.5 hits and 5.3 runs.
It might be a new position to be in but it doesn’t mean the Hawks are getting comfortable or complacent.
“We’re starting to pick up and we’re hitting good right now,” Guzman said. “(We’re) pretty confident but we’ve got to stay on them. They’re a pretty good team. … We’re just going to go in there still pushing.”
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