LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
The horizon is looking bright for Lackland's varsity baseball team as it enters the Fourth of July break red hot, having just completed its seventh win in a row in the San Antonio Men's Senior Baseball League.
The military team has pounded out wins and runs since May, scoring at least 10 each game during the streak. Its last was a 16-3 rout of the Rangers June 26.
"I've been playing in (this league) for a very long time," Warhawks coach Davin Dukes said. "It's pretty hard to win, especially as a military team, and to win that many games in a row."
After a 1-5 record to start the season, such a turnaround may have seemed a fantastic mirage to the young ballclub, which added 14 new players.
However, Dukes is never at a loss replacing talent within the military population. The new roster just meant learning to play together all over again and adjusting conflicting schedules.
Dukes said for the most part he has a pretty good idea who will be available on game day - though there are always exceptions.
Indicative of the mission-first, baseball-second attitude, right fielder Tim Johansen was recently called in to work a 12-hour shift and planned on still making a game but didn't get off in time.
"Duty called," Dukes said.
Dukes said better pitching and reducing errors led to the wins, all previous five losses coming within a three-run margin.
"We were doing decent," Dukes said. "With the pitching in shape, we started playing complete ball games. We didn't give up the big inning."
Throughout his tenure with the base team, Davin has advocated two things: hold a 10-run lead and limit fielding errors.
He expects his players to make the opponent beat them.
The veteran coach tells his team to keep the total number of fielding errors, walks, passed balls, hit batters and other mistakes less than the number on his jersey.
"The magic number is eight," he said. "Keep the extra at bats in a ball game to eight and we should win."
And, win they have. But Dukes has seen this before and is cautious to praise his team too much.
Last year, the team went on a similar midseason tear, winning six straight after starting the season 0-3.
With nine games still remaining, Dukes is wary of repeating a 3-6 let down that placed the 2009 team at the mercy of the No. 1 Titans in the first round of the playoffs.
"We start off slow, we get good over the summer and then we, I don't want to say taper off at the end, but we fall in line."
The 2010 Warhawks players have a chance to do something their coach has never seen, win eight straight games July 10 against the Cougars at the Basse-McCullough baseball field.