Just past the midway point in District 10-5A baseball play, the standings are pretty much the jumble Mansfield ISD coaches expected.
“It’s exactly how we thought it would be going into district,” Mansfield Legacy coach Chris McMullen said. “Every team has improved. It’s going to go down to the wire.”
Red Oak and Waxahachie lead the district at 6-2, while three teams — Legacy, Mansfield Lake Ridge and Mansfield Timberview — are just a game back. Midlothian is just two back at 4-4.
“It’s just like it has been for the last four years now,” Summit coach Chris Peacock said. “The district is ultra-competitive, and it seems like every year there’s a lot of really close games and upsets and everybody has a chance to beat anybody on a given night. That’s just continued again this year.”
Summit isn’t having the season it hoped for. The Jaguars are only 1-7 in district games.
“We just haven’t been good enough offensively,” Peacock said. “We haven’t put together good at-bats when we’ve had runners on base. We just haven’t been able to score enough runs.”
Summit has also suffered from the loss of Ryan Foley, who dislocated a knee earlier this season and has made only one appearance in district play.
“We’ve pitched OK, but we’ve had some injury issues,” Peacock added. “We’ve had to go a little deeper into the staff than we were probably counting on. More than anything we just haven’t swung the bats good enough. We haven’t scored enough runs and that’s put pressure on the pitching and defensive side of things.”
Legacy lost a pair of games last week to fall off the pace, but is still in good shape. McMullen noted that little things can make big differences in these close games. For the Broncos, one of those has been timely hitting.
“Runners in scoring position with two outs,” McMullen said. “Just getting that base hit with two outs. There have been a lot of situations where we’ve had guys on base with two outs and just haven’t got the big hit we needed. We’re 5-3, but I feel like we could easily be 7-1. Those are the types of things we need to get better at. It all comes down to execution.”
Perhaps the hottest team in the district is Timberview. The Wolves have won three straight to put themselves among the group tied for second place. One of those victories was against co-leaders Red Oak. Illustrating McMullen’s point about little things making a difference, all three victories in the streak were one-run games.
Lake Ridge also won an important game against co-leaders Waxahachie last week to keep the Eagles in the mix for the postseason.
“I don’t think anyone has necessarily been surprising,” McMullen said. “We knew Lake Ridge was returning a lot of players from last year, so it’s not surprising to see the success they’re having this year. No one has really caught us off-guard at all.”
From a more zoomed-out perspective, the tight district race is helping coaches hammer home the important life lessons that high school athletics are supposed to teach.
“How do you come out the next day and practice knowing that maybe you didn’t execute a situation that could have got us over the hump and won a ball game,” McMullen said. “That’s the big thing you look for is consistency, just the ebbs and flows that a baseball season has.”
In the end, four of the teams will move on to the postseason. But we may not — and probably won’t — know which four anytime soon, Peacock said.
“It’s going to be a fight all the way to the finish.”