Mineral Wells Index
By CLINT FOSTER
You can't keep a good team down for long and, as they have indicated this season, the Mineral Wells Rams (14-9, 5-1) are certainly a good team.
Four days after a 4-0 loss to Castleberry, during which the Rams mustered only four hits, Mineral Wells came out with a vengeance against the Lake Worth Bullfrogs (2-18, 1-5), riding 10 hits to an 11-0 victory in four-and-a-half innings, Tuesday night, at Pratt Field.
Now – thanks to Springtown, who beat Castleberry, 10-3, Tuesday – the Rams still sit at the top of the District 6-3A standings, tied only with Kennedale, whom the Rams defeated in the first round of league play.
Head coach Bret Barrick said Tuesday night was about the Rams coming out with a swagger and proving that their success has not been a fluke, but that they belong in the district championship conversation.
"I told (the players) before the game that we've got to play with a little chip on our shoulder," he said. "We've got something to prove. We barely beat Lake Worth in the first round of district, it took us a while to get after Diamond Hill and a lot of teams in the district are sitting around looking at us like, 'Well, they're not really that good.' We came out and (proved what we're capable of)."
It was a dominant performance across the board, as Cameron Bullock worked a no-hitter through his four innings on the hill and the Rams' offense registered its best hitting night since their 13-3 win over Diamond Hill, March 21.
Bullock struggled with his command at times, with about 50 percent of his pitches called strikes. He walked four and only struck out two, but his performance was still good enough to go down as a personal no-hitter and secure the win for Mineral Wells.
"I just tried to get ahead with my fastball," he said. "I didn't have the command of all my pitches, it was a little rocky. But whenever you don't have your best stuff, you've got to throw strikes. I had to battle, but I didn't quit."
Barrick pulled Bullock in the game's fifth and final inning in favor of Justyn Lee, who allowed the only hit of the game and a walk, but put the cap on the shutout victory. Barrick said the decision was made with the future in mind, rather than a five-inning no-hitter.
"At this point in the season, that was an opportunity for us to get Justyn on the mound," he said. "Eventually we're going to need Justyn to pitch and play well, so we saw it as a chance to get Justyn an inning.
"Cameron was good with that. That's the kind of kid Cameron is. He's a team player. Our focus wasn't necessarily on getting the no-hitter, it was let's get the 'W' and do what we need to do to make us better down the line."
As efficient as the Rams were on defense, Barrick said the biggest takeaway of the night was the strength of Mineral Wells' bats.
"The biggest thing tonight was our offense," he said. "We hit the ball hard from top to bottom. When we're putting the ball in play like that and getting some guys on, we can score some runs. That's what we've got to concentrate on in this second half: when we get a chance, get guys on and find ways to get them around the bases. That's what we did tonight. I'm proud of the guys. We're one step closer to where we want to be."
Many Rams stood out in the lineup, as seven of nine starters got at least one hit and four players had at least two RBIs. The top four of the order were particularly lethal, as Barrick has often said they need to be for the Rams to play their best.
Batting cleanup, Paden Patino went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored, while Braxton Allen finished a perfect 1-for-1 with a triple, two walks and two runs scored.
But perhaps the players who provided the most impact were two young men who had to sit out of the Castleberry game: senior Colby Kissinger and sophomore McCain Mason.
Kissinger gashed the Frogs, finishing 2-for-3 with a triple, two RBIs and a run. Mason, on the other hand, was 2-for-2 with a double, a run scored and a team-high three RBIs.
Barrick and Bullock both said the great hitting night was magnified and a major confidence booster after the offensive struggle that was the Castlberry game.
"It was big," Bullock said. "We've got to hit the ball to win."
"Castleberry was a frustrating game for us" Barrick said. "That umpire's strike zone was huge and our guys were just going out there and swinging at everything, because we weren't quite sure what was going to be a strike and what wasn't. Their pitcher did a good job of taking what the umpire gave him.
"We had an umpire tonight that closed down the zone and made them throw it over the plate. When they throw it over the plate, our guys do pretty good.
"It was good for our confidence. We needed a game like tonight to get our confidence back. Hopefully we can continue to build on it as we go throught the second half of district. I like where we're at."
Another potential confidence builder is on the horizon, as the Rams travel back to Fort Worth, Friday, for a game against the Diamond Hill-Jarvis Eagles (4-12, 0-6). As always, Barrick said the only goal is to win the next game.
"That's the only game that matters," he said.
With a win at Diamond Hill, the Rams are sure to be in prime position heading into their final three district games against the top end of 6-3A and two other teams still jockeying with Mineral Wells for first place.
First pitch of Diamond Hill is set for 7:30 p.m., Friday, in Fort Worth.