By CLINT FOSTER
So far, the Mineral Wells Rams have achieved just about every goal they set out for themselves this season. They capped off a 17-10 season – including a historic season sweep of the state-ranked Kennedale Wildcats – with their third outright district championship in four years and a favorable playoff seeding.
Only one goal remains: a state championship. And the first step on the road to Austin takes the Rams to Bowie, where they are set to play one game against the Vernon Lions at 5 p.m. today.
The Lions (7-16, 2-6) squeaked into the playoffs as the fourth-place team in District 5-3A and present a favorable matchup, overall, for the District 6-3A champion Rams. But, after winning a coin flip, Vernon chose to play a single-game series at a neutral site, rather than a best of three. This could pose dangerous in a win-or-go-home scenario if the Lions can find some postseason magic.
"I try not to think about that," head coach Bret Barrick said. "That is my fear. When you go a one-game series, anything can happen. You just try to prepare them.
"The bottom line is we've been in a one-game series for the last two weeks. We're just going to try and stay focused, throw our best out there and hopefully everything will work out. We should be OK."
Despite his reservations about playing a one-game series to open the playoffs, Barrick said he is confident heading into a game against a team that he described as a less- talented version of the Rams' District 6-3A foes, Castleberry.
"From what I understand on the scouting report, they're kind of a lot like Castleberry," he said. "They've got some dangerous guys on the bases, if they get on. Their pitcher is not over-powering, but he's a competitor. They play hard and we're going to have to match that. If we go out and play our game, we don't have to worry about the opponent. If we play the best we can, we'll be fine."