By TONY EIERDAM
With his stellar relief appearance last week against Lake Worth, Mineral Wells pitcher Aaron Wheeler got his opportunity to start Tuesday night in the Rams important District 6-3A home game against Springtown.
Wheeler threw 4 1/3 innings of relief in the win over Lake Worth, allowing no runs and no hits with two walks and four strikeouts, prompting head coach Bret Barrick to shuffle his starting pitching rotation and allow Wheeler his chance to start on the hill in a meaningful district contest.
Wheeler not only made Barrick look like a baseball genius, he also brought the Rams a game closer to a share of the district championship.
Wheeler allowed one run on just three hits while walking only one and striking 12 in seven innings to lead the Rams to a 3-1 victory over the Porcupines.
The win sets up a first-place showdown in the district finale Friday at Kennedale. The first pitch is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
The win was also No. 100 in the career of Barrick.
“I have been lucky and had some good baseball players who win a bunch of baseball games,” Barrick said. “When you have baseball players like I have had it is pretty easy to get to 100 wins.”
Barrick said he knew Wheeler had the potential to be a starting pitcher.
“Aaron has pitched off and on for us before and during district, and he has been pretty good,” Barrick said. “I wanted to give him a shot after the way he pitched at Lake Worth last week.
“I thought he gave a gutsy performance, and he threw a lot of strikes and kept the hitters off balance with his curve ball and his fast ball.
“He did a great job, and we played solid defense behind him.”
Although the Rams produced just five hits in the contest, the hits came at the right time.
Barrick said he was pleased with the way the Rams put the ball in play.
“We did not strike out much at all,” he said. “We put the ball in play, and with two strikes we were hitting the ball to right field.
“We were doing the things we need to do at the plate. The kids are coming together and playing real well. This is what we wanted, a chance to go to Kennedale and play for a share of the district championship.
“This was also a great way for our seniors to go out in their final regular season home games.”
The game was tied at 1-1 as it moved to the bottom of the fifth inning. The Rams had scored in the first inning when Brandon Martinez led off with a double and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Matt Tincher. Springtown matched the score with a run in the third frame.
In the fifth, senior Dan Reay Turk singled and moved to second base after a sacrifice bunt from Chris Rapp. Three batters later, Kissinger lined a single to right that plated Turk as the Rams led 2-1.
MWHS closed the scoring in the sixth. Braxton Allen drew a walk and advanced to second on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Wheeler.
The next batter, Turk, sharply singled to left to drive in Allen as the Rams extended their lead to 3-1.
Before the start of the seventh inning Barrick had Tincher warming up in the bullpen in case Wheeler grew tired.
But this was Wheeler’s game.
After forcing the lead-off hitter to ground out, Wheeler struck out the next two batters to earn the complete-game win and give his team a chance to play for a championship on Friday.
Spot starter Wheeler strikes out 12 to lead Rams to 3-1 win, chance for district title
By TONY EIERDAM
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