Mineral Wells Index
By CLINT FOSTER
After staving off an emotionally charged Graham squad to capture their fourth consecutive bi-district championship, the Mineral Wells Lady Rams' postseason march continues with a best-of-three, second-round series against the Glen Rose Lady Tigers with the first game set for 7 p.m. today at Kessler Field.
The Lady Tigers were just who Mineral Wells was hoping to see. Much like Graham, head coach David Tarver has plenty of scouting information to pull from in preparation for the game after years of playing Glen Rose.
Most recently, the Lady Rams won their only meeting with the Lady Tigers this year, 4-1, in the finale of the Glen Rose Tournament, Feb. 22.
But just because the Lady Rams can feel best-prepared heading into their postseason series with Glen Rose doesn't necessarily mean two easy wins. Tarver said the Lady Tigers are a complete team that rarely make mistakes.
"Glen Rose hits very well," he said. "They're solid defensively and don't make many mistakes. They make all the routine plays. We're just going to have to be on top of our game, play our style and play upbeat. If we can play our style, play up tempo and make all the routine plays, I'm pretty confident [we will win]."
In their previous meeting, sophomore pitcher Kelsey Keeton was able to keep Glen Rose's bats in check for the most part, allowing just six hits and one unearned run in seven innings of work.
But perhaps the Lady Tigers' biggest strength is one the Lady Rams saw first-hand in their last game: their pitching.
With the exception of a four-run third inning that proved to be the difference in the game, Glen Rose shut out the Lady Rams in their first meeting. Much like Mineral Wells, Tarver said Glen Rose's pitchers rely mostly on placement and movement, rather than speed, to force opponents into ground balls and strikeouts.
"They don't throw real hard," he said. "They're going to try to keep the ball down on us and make us bounce a lot of balls in the dirt to give them those easy groundouts.
"Our focus has been to be conscious of the strike zone. The pitchers are going to make mistakes and leave a ball over the plate every once in a while. We have to make them come up in the strike zone and give us pitches we can hit hard and stay off those pitches that are nipping at the corners. We just have to stay disciplined and look for that good pitch and drive it."
For the Lady Rams, Tarver said the tentative plan is for junior Allie Stephens to be Mineral Wells' starting pitcher in game one, as she was against Graham. But Tarver added Keeton will still be available at a moment's notice as a change of pace.
The Lady Rams have used both of their pitchers interchangeably during games with great results throughout the season and Tarver said fans shouldn't expect to see anything different moving forward.
"That seems to be what we do best," he said.
Perhaps the biggest cause for optimism heading into this weekend's series is how good of a week in practice the Lady Rams reportedly had.
Tarver has said many times that his team performs best when they are upbeat, having fun and enjoying the game they love to play. He said this week in practice, his girls were doing just that while still maintaining a razor-sharp focus on the task at hand.
"They probably hit the ball as well as I've seen them do all year [Wednesday] and they were having fun doing it," he said. "Their spirits and mentality have not changed since day one. This group is very unique. I don't think I've ever coached another group like them. They're almost always upbeat and in good spirits."
If the Lady Rams stay happy and clicking, there's no telling what heights they can achieve this weekend and beyond in the playoffs.