Try as he might, Darron Henson couldn't hide the smile.

The Kingston coach had just watched his team leap forward in its development, thumping a talented and streaking Plainview team 9-1 to cap off a sensational weekend of action in the Lake Country Conference tournament two weeks ago at Lone Grove.

The Redskins, not known for success in baseball, were suddenly the kings of the conference.

"I'm just really proud of the kids," Henson said. "All of the work we've put in the last two years, where we've come from with struggling and the amount of work they've put in.

"It really just means a lot."

Nobody can ignore Kingston now. At 17-4, winners of seven straight and 10 of 11, the Redskins have emerged this season as a strong challenger in the Class 3A race.

Veterans like Harley Cendejas, Jared Hayes, Kameron Stephens and Jake Patterson are providing both production and a leadership presence. Patterson and Hayes are also solid starters on the mound, combining for 78 strikeouts and just 19 walks combined.

"Our pitchers have done a good job of mixing it up, throwing hitters off and getting curveballs over in fastball counts," Henson said. "We've really pitched well and played good defense."

But perhaps the biggest X-factor has been the play of freshman Jacson Beal, who has emerged as one of the top players in the entire area this season. With a .525 average that includes eight homers and 38 RBIs, Beal was recognized as the most vaulable player of the LCC tournament and has turned heads across the southern part of the state.

"He's the best freshman I've ever coached," Henson said. "Right when I got a chance to see him take his first swing, I knew he was something special.

"He just has a feel for that game that's very natural."

And while Beal's best days may still be in front of him, questions are starting to arise as to whether he, and the rest of this Redskins squad, can make some playoff noise right now.

"There's just something about these kids, they're just so hungry to win," Henson said. "I think I've just come along at the right time."

Falcons flying up the rankings

It's just been Shane Hill's kind of year.

First, the Turner coach got a chance to lead his girls basketball squad to the state semifinals in Class A. Now, with many of those players switching out sneakers for spikes, the Falcons have a slow pitch softball team that's starting to make noise in 2A.

"I felt like we had a chance to be good, if some things went our way," Hill said.

It certainly appears that they have. Turner is sporting a very respectable 17-3 mark and has earned a spot at No. 6 in the 2A rankings. The Falcons are coming off a Healdton tournament championship in which they played into the wee hours of the night Saturday, winning five of six games for the tourney title.
Hill attributes much of that to his team's play in the field, something he calls a necessity for the sport.

"If you don't play good, solid, fundamental defense, you won't be successful," Hill said. "The reality in slow pitch is that you won't strike out very many batters, and that means you need the defense to make a play in the field 95 percent of the time."

Hill accomplished this by placing some of his best players at crucial positions. He transitioned his fastpitch catcher Connor Harmon to shortstop and placed senior Taylor Foster and junior Andi McGill in the outfield.

Hill gave substantial credit to the play of freshman Allie Foster, who he placed at third base, for being the missing puzzle piece to a complete defense.

"As far as the hot corner, she is really solid." Hill said. "Especially in slow pitch, 80 percent of them will pull the ball and she's really made our team a lot better from last year because I was able to move people around to other positions because she was so good."

As for at the plate, Hill has been pleased with the team's ability to get "timely hitting", but also insisted he had the players to win some slugfests if necessary.

"Whenever they pitch to Harmon, she can hit it all over the park," Harmon said. "We also try to stay aggressive on the basepaths and take every extra base we can."

Follow White on Twitter: @swhiteARD