The 11-6A softball race was expected to be competitive and it has been as advertised.
As they head into the second half of the district season, five teams have winning records, which sets the stage for a dramatic next few weeks.
Here is a look at the stretch run:
North Mesquite (4-3 in 11-6A, 11-10)
A big reason the Stallions are in this position is their wins over their crosstown rivals, as they posted 12-11 victories over both Horn and Mesquite. Outside of its loss to Longview, North Mesquite has been in every game, including tough setbacks to district co-leaders Rockwall-and Rockwall-Heath.
Brittany Thomas has shouldered the load on the mound, posting a 2.47 ERA with 112 strikeouts in 79.1 innings.
Thomas is also one of the team’s best hitters, posting a .471 batting average with three triples.
Freshman Haleigh Mitchell has made an immediate impact, hitting .475 with eight doubles and 15 RBIs, while Alyssia Burley (.415, 5 doubles, 15 runs, 16 RBIs), Lauren Jenkins (.400, 2 home runs, 15 RBIs), Caressa Smith (.435), Desteny Ponciano (.364) and Avery Valdez (.310) have also shined at the plate.
Key Game: vs. Horn (Apr. 13)
Horn (4-3, 10-11)
The Jaguars are just a play or two from being higher in the standings. After winning their first three district games, they suffered close losses to Rockwall (15-13) and North Mesquite (12-11).
Addi Burke is the key cog, at the plate from her lead-off spot, on defense at shortstop and with senior leadership.
Following Burke in the lineup, the Jaguars are solid with Olivia Mueller, Taylor Thompson, Meagan Youngman, Leah Deaver and Tabitha Borden, while others, such as Laci Baker, Alyssa Spoerl and Maci Malcom, are also capable hitters.
Spoerl, last year’s freshman of the year, has been one of the top pitchers in the district for the second straight season.
Key Game: vs. Horn (Apr. 13)
Mesquite (2-5, 8-12)
The Skeeters dropped a pair of close games against crosstown rivals (12-11 to North Mesquite and 9-5 to Horn), bounced back with a pair of wins, but have since lost three in a row, all by eight runs or more.
Kailey Anderson, a Louisiana Tech signee, and Sara Bailey set the table at the top of the order for Rebecca Taylor, who is also the Skeeters’ primary pitcher, Samantha Castorena, Destiny Martinez and Jazmin Elias.
The bottom of the lineup, with Caitlyn Little, Madison Hays and Caitlin Giles, has also delivered in some big moments.
This is a big week for the Skeeters in their second go-around against the Stallions and Jaguars. If they can avenge those setbacks, they will be right back in the playoff race. A pair of losses, however, could potentially end their hopes.
Key Game: vs. North Mesquite (Fri.)
Rockwall-Heath (6-1, 15-5)
The Hawks were rolling right along for most of the district season. Cami Duffey, who won district pitcher of the year last season and is the prime candidate to repeat that honor, allowed just one run in the first five games, including a 3-0 victory over rival Rockwall.
Rockwall-Heath suffered a hiccup when a series of errors led to a 4-2 loss to Longview before they bounced back on Tuesday with a win over Horn.
With Duffey and the defense holding district opponents to 1.2 runs per game, the offense is scoring nearly 10 runs per contest.
The lineup features seasoned players in Jordan Strange, Emily Clark, Madison Leggett, Abigail Renteria and Duffey, and they have gotten immediate contributions from freshmen Tristin Court, Trinity Cannon and Abby Woloss.
Key Game: at Longview (Apr. 18)
Rockwall (6-1, 13-11-1)
Since their shutout loss to Rockwall-Heath, the Yellowjackets have averaged 14.4 runs during their five-game winning streak.
Rockwall has flexed its muscle in the lineup from top to bottom with Reagan Swindell, Erica Speer, Sam Bean, Cassie Lawrence, Cassie Lawrence, Darryn Welbon and Lexi Coward.
Many teams rely on just one pitcher, but Rockwall has a number of arms they can turn to, as Hannah Frank, Paige Harris, Speer and Coward have all logged innings on the mound.
Key Game: at Rockwall-Heath (Tues.)
Longview (5-2, 15-8)
The Lobos got off to a quiet start to the 11-6A season, with losses to Horn and Rockwall sandwiched around a narrow 2-0 win over Lee.
They have been on a roll ever since, outscoring opponents 50-3 during their four-game winning streak, highlighted by a 4-2 victory over Rockwall-Heath.
Freshman Kennedy Cameron has posted a stellar 1.01 ERA while averaging better than one strikeout per inning.
The Lobo offense featured a number of players hitting .400 or better, including Brooke Goynes (.558), Jordan McClain (.510), Alex Johnson, Chandler Peoples, Kerris Cameron and Kennedy Cameron.
Key Game: at Rockwall (Apr. 7)
Tyler Lee (1-6, 5-17)
The Red Raiders had a couple of close calls before breaking through with a 17-1 win over Tyler John Tyler on Tuesday, but they are still in need of a larger turnaround if they hope to get back into contention.
Pitcher Chelsea Robinson has been strong in recent outings and an offense that includes Robinson, Kambree Yates, Cameron Attaway, Haley Brown and Victoria Sanchez is hoping to build on its big performance against the Lions.
Key Game: vs. Horn (Apr. 7)
Tyler John Tyler (0-7, 0-13)
A small positive in a season that has lacked them is that the Lions have scored in each of the last two games. The bad news is they have still lost every district game by 15 runs or more.