Mineral Wells Index
By CLINT FOSTER
FORT WORTH – After a historic victory over the Kennedale Wildcats, the Mineral Wells Rams (13-9, 4-1) were flying high and sitting all alone atop the District 6-3A standings. But a trip to Fort Worth quickly brought the Rams back to earth as they lost to the Castleberry Lions, 4-0, at Castleberry's Camp Carter Baseball and Softball Complex, Friday night.
With the loss the Rams now find themselves in a three-way tie for first place in district with the Lions and the foes they conquered to end the month of March: Kennedale.
"We just didn't get it done," head coach Bret Barrick said after the game. "I thought the kids played hard. The effort was great. The attitude stayed positive the whole game.
"The bottom line is we're still in first place. Kennedale and Castleberry both have to come to Mineral Wells, so the district championship still has to come through Mineral Wells.
"We're not right where we wanted to be, but in a way, we really still are. We wanted to be in first place after the first round and we are. We just happen to be tied with two other teams. If we take care of business in the second half, everything's going to be okay."
The Rams' offense stalled against Castleberry and failed to deliver a win despite a gem of a pitching performance from senior Chris Rapp. The righty pitched a complete game, bookended by four scoreless innings, and struck out 12 batters while only allowing four hits, one walk and one earned run. Rapp also broke out of a bit of a hitting slump, going 2-for-3 from the plate – good enough for half of the team's hitting production.
Playing without leaders Colby Kissinger and McCain Mason, the defense struggled to make plays for Rapp when they needed them most.
"Chris pitched well, he pitched real well," Barrick said. "We didn't play as well behind him as we should have."
Offensively, the Rams mustered four hits and three walks. In addition to Rapp’s two hits, the other two came from Cameron Bullock and designated hitter Brayden Garcia.
Mineral Wells put runners in scoring position on two different occasions. But the Rams could never seal the deal and bring a runner home. Barrick said the lack of a timely hit hurt his team the most in the loss.
"Offensively, we put the ball in play, we just didn't get the big hit when we needed it.," he said. "We had a couple of innings where we had runners at second and third with two outs and if we get a base hit right there, we probably score a couple and it's a different kind of ball game.
"That's the way baseball goes. Sometimes you get the hit when you need it, sometimes you don't get the hit when you need it. Tonight, we didn't get the hits when we needed them.
"Give Castleberry the credit. They made the plays and hit the ball well and when they needed to. Their pitcher did a pretty good job of keeping us off balance tonight. We never could really zero in."
As much as the Rams wanted to post an undefeated district season, sometimes a loss can be the best thing for a team moving forward. Barrick echoed this sentiment, referencing the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
"You see Wichita State go into the NCAA Tournament undefeated, first undefeated team since 1991, and they didn't get it done," he said. "Whereas teams like Kentucky and Florida come in with some losses under them, so they know what it's like. So, it could be a good thing for us.
"We'll take the weekend, get away a little bit and come back refocused on Monday. I think the kids have the right attitude. They're hungry. They wanted to go undefeated. It just didn't work out that way. I really look for us to play well on Tuesday."
Tuesday the Rams draw a home matchup against the Lake Worth Bullfrogs to open the second and final half of the district slate. In their previous meeting, the Rams rallied to beat the Bullfrogs, 3-2, thanks to some late-game heroics by Frank Jackson and Kissinger and a solid pitching performance from Braxton Allen to close things out.
Heading into their second meeting with Lake Worth, Barrick said he told his team nothing has changed.
"We'll take this game and learn from it," he said. "We've got five games left and we need to run the table in the next five. If we do that, then all's forgotten and nobody remembers this.
"We've just got to make sure that we take care of our business, take care of ourselves and our team and we do what we need to do to come out and be the best that we can be. When we play the best we can I like our chances in every game."
First pitch of the Lake Worth game is set for 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, at Pratt Field.