By TONY EIERDAM
FORT WORTH – How strange is the District 6-3A baseball race?
Only as strange as the Mineral Wells Rams’ 5-3 win over Fort Worth Diamond Hill here Friday night when starting pitcher Matt “Moose” Tincher not only earned the win on the hill, but was also credited with a save when he went back to the mound with MWHS holding a one-run lead and retired all four batters he faced, including three strikeouts.
The win elevates the Rams to 2-1 in district play.
Couple the MWHS win with state-ranked No. 3 Kennedale’s unlikely 6-2 loss to Castleberry – a team the Rams beat 17-0 in the district opener – and 6-3A has a four-way tie with the Rams, Kennedale, Lake Worth (who beat the Rams on Tuesday) and Springtown, a winner over Lake Worth on Friday.
The strange pitching occurrence happened in the bottom of the sixth inning with the Rams comfortably ahead, 4-0.
Rams head coach Bret Barrick, wanting to save Tincher’s arm for next week’s big games against Springtown (in a possible relief outing Tuesday) and Kennedale (in a start on Thursday) pulled the 6-5 lefty.
Diamond Hill had not touched Tincher as the Moose had not allowed a hit through five innings and issued just one free pass while striking out 12. He had retired 10 batters in a row at one point.
In a move that really didn’t surprise anyone, Barrick replaced Tincher to start the sixth with junior Chris Rapp. The move looked great as Rapp struck out the first two batters he faced.
However, on the second strikeout, the ball got away from freshman catcher Braxton Allen, allowing the batter to hustle to first base to save the out. It all fell apart from that point.
Rapp walked the next two batters, and the next batter hit a towering double that drove in two runs. In almost an instant, Diamond Hill went from a hitless, punchless squad to a team that was just down two runs.
Barrick replaced Rapp with Bob Boudreau, and on a wild pitch another Diamond Hill base runner scored to cut the lead to 4-3.
The Eagles continued to rally when the next batter reached base on a dropped fly ball, and Boudreau issued a walk to the following batter as the Eagles had runners on first and third with two outs.
Barrick called on Tincher, who had stayed in the game at first base, to get the final out of the frame. The lefty struck out the next batter to keep the Rams in front 4-3 as the game moved top the seventh inning.
With one out in the top of the seventh, third baseman Aaron Wheeler hit a key triple and scored a batter later on Dan Reay Turk’s sacrifice fly ball to increase the Rams’ lead to 5-3.
Tincher dashed the Eagles’ hopes of victory in the seventh by retiring the side in order while collecting his 14th and 15th strikeouts of the contest, along with the save.
“I am glad we came out and got the W,” Barrick said. “I think the guys are pressing a little bit on the field, at the plate and on the mound. We need to have confidence at the plate.
“We have Springtown and Kennedale next week, and anything can happen. It is a long season, and we have to play seven innings every game.”
Barrick was asked if he would do anything different in the way he handled the pitchers.
“I have no regrets at all,” he said.”There are several different scenarios going on in every inning of every game, and we are trying to best utilize our personnel for specific situations.
“It wasn’t really a huge gamble. We put Tincher back at first to keep him in the game in case we needed him back on the mound.
“Looking back, I probably should have brought him back in when it got to be 4-2, but we had two outs and a chance right there to get the third out ... you have to have confidence in all of your kids, and I have confidence in mine.
“They show up to play every night, and we are going to give them opportunities.
“It is a chess match at times,” Barrick continued. “Sometimes you make a move that works and you are a hero; and sometimes you make a move and it doesn’t pan out and you look like an idiot.
“It’s a hero or zero syndrome at times for a manager. Luckily it didn’t hurt us and we came out with a W.”
The Rams took a 2-0 lead in the third inning. Brandon Martinez worked a walk and scored a batter later on a double from Colby Kissinger. Kissinger would cross the plate later after a Diamond Hill error.
The Rams took a 4-0 lead with a pair of runs in the sixth. Wheeler walked to lead off the inning and promptly stole second base. He advanced to third base when Turk followed with a base hit.
The next batter, Boudreau, drove in Wheeler with a single to center field. Turk scored three batters later on an overthrow after a dropped third strike.
By TONY EIERDAM
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