MANSFIELD — The flood of Hawks' hits that nearly swept Mansfield Summit High School out to sea on Friday at Jaguar Field started as a trickle against its neighboring rival.
Since March 17, Red Oak has turned 13 hits in two games into eight total runs.
"We use the term 'trust the process' and we probably hit the most [in practice] of any high school team in Texas. That's helped us get us to where we are now. Hitting's contagious," Hawks Head Coach Jay Johnson said about the method to the madness of his team's winning trend. "One guy will get a hit, then the next and then the next. We played well against Waxahachie but they got some key hits and we didn't. We grew as a team, though, and we know we can play with the teams in a tough district that's going to be a dogfight all the way through."
His (14-3-2, 3-1) Hawks didn't only continue its near errorless streak of efficiency they also compiled more hits than in any of the three previous district games.
"Some of the mistakes we make you don't know about," Johnson continued, letting a slight chuckle erupt forth. "We make some mental errors, but as far as physical errors, we don't make many. It comes from decent defense, great pitching from our starters and our relievers coming in right behind them as well as timely hits."
Pitching is one thing. The way Red Oak's stable of horses — Erik Gipson, Chase Jennings and Austin Tuley — has performed has been nothing short of seamless.
While Gipson nearly blanked Mansfield Lake Ridge High School on Tuesday, Jennings and Tuley frustrated batters as their pitches danced in and around the umpires floating strike zone.
In six innings, Jennings struck out six batters, walked none and allowed seven hits with 106 pitches. Tuley, in his single inning, faced four batters, forcing groundouts to two and a flyout to the other.
He allowed one hit and while picking up the save.
Red Oak's live arms were only part of the equation, though. The Hawks' loud bats — especially Brandon Gibson's — were the other. The senior, who was scouted by the Texas Rangers as a freshman and hasn't has committed to a collegiate future yet, went 4-for-4 at the plate.
"We just play together, we're a family and we're behind each other the entire game," he said. "We're trusting the process like coach says and letting it fly. Today was definitely my best performance of the season. I've had some games where I was up and down, but today I guess it just came out."
Gibson hit four singles in the first, third, fourth and sixth innings. Three of those at-bats lead directly to run scoring opportunities.
Four other Hawks — Bryant Bailey (3-for-4), Lance Milke (1-for-2), Tyler Heaney (1-for-1) and Joey Rodriguez (1-for-4) — earned at least one base. Gipson (3), Jordan Trotter (3), Heaney (2) and Bailey (2) as well as Milke, Brady Faulkner, Ronnie Iracheta and Wren Hampton accounted for Red Oak's 14 quality at-bats.
"Our ceiling is as high as we want it to be," Gibson said. "We've got arms, bats and everything we need. It's about making it happen now."
Bailey (3) and Gibson (1) earned the Hawks' four RBI.
Fourteen of those QABs came against Lynch and Vetrano, who combined for eight strikeouts, four walks and five runs on 10 hits with 117 total pitches.
Red Oak will have Tuesday off as a part of their district schedule "bye" game but will face Lancaster High School at 7 p.m. Friday at Buddy Groom Field. Lancaster is winless in District 10-5A play and has allowed more than 30 runs in its last three games.
"This was a swing game," Johnson said. "If we lost it we'd go the other way and if we won it we'd be sitting on the good side. Any time you're 3-1 on the positive side. The previous two years we've been on the other side — 1-3, 1-4 and 2-5 — playing catch-up. You can't play catch-up in this district because every time you take the field you're going to face somebody's who's hungry to win and has the talent to do it."
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI.