Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

May 8, 2013

Fun time of year for Rams, Lady Rams ball teams

As I See It ... Tony Eierdam

Mineral Wells Index

— This is the good stuff.

The Mineral Wells Lady Rams softball team and Rams baseball team are now well-entrenched into what many call the “second season,” a.k.a. the playoffs.

This is why I love doing what I do.

I love the playoffs because the sports fans of Mineral Wells support their teams, and it is always better and more fun for the kids to play in front of these large crowds.

This weekend, beginning Friday, the Lady Rams and Rams will try once again to extend their respective playoff lives at least another week. And the story lines are intriguing.

The Lady Rams have already made school history this season by winning consecutive playoff series’ and advancing to the regional quarterfinals.

But the celebration of Saturday’s 16-6 win over Hillsboro probably did not extend too far into Sunday. The Lady Rams’ playoff nemesis, state-ranked No. 6 Burkburnett and their salty pitcher Kylee Trahan, are up next. Trahan and the Lady Bulldogs eliminated the Lady Rams last year, so story line No. 1 for this series from a Lady Rams perspective is, REVENGE!

This best-of-three series that begins Friday here at Kessler Field also features two of the top long-ball hitters in North Texas: Mineral Wells senior catcher Reagan Patterson and Burk senior catcher Paige Daino.

Patterson leads the area with 10 home runs, and Daino has eight jacks. But Trahan will also have to deal with another hot Patterson hitter, Reagan’s younger sister Hope.

Hope Patterson has been playing tough all season with an injured hamstring, but all looks well and good now after she clubbed three doubles and drove in six runs in the Lady Rams’ area-series clinching game against Hillsboro on Saturday.

And don’t forget Bethany Allen, the all-state shortstop who in my book is the top lead-off hitter in all of softball.

But this is a team starting to hit all up and down the order, so look out.

Trahan struck out 13 Lady Rams in last year’s playoff meeting, but she will find out her opponent is one of the strongest at the plate she has faced in 2013.

The Rams have advanced to the area (second) round and will face an Alvarado squad similar to itself. This is what I call a “chess match” series as Rams skipper Bret Barrick and Alvarado manager A.J. Hall each have an ace in the hole, or at least a true ace each on the mound.

Which brings me to Barrick. Some coaches in the past have relied on a “one game” series to advance because they have a dominant pitcher, much like Barrick has in Matt “Moose” Tincher, who has recorded 329 strikeouts in less than three years as a starting varsity pitcher.

If you didn’t know, some baseball and softball series go just one game and others are a best-of-three series. Why the difference? If one coach wants a one-game series and another wants a best-of-three series, then the coaches have to flip a coin to determine the format of the playoff round.

There have been coaches in the recent past who have won coin flips and gone with his top hurler in consecutive one-games series’ all the way to the state tournament. West (God bless that town) did it last year.

Alvarado head coach A.J. Hall has the same circumstance. He has a great pitcher, Dylan Lemons, who has struck out 116 batters in 60 innings this season. By comparison, this year Tincher has struck out 131 batters in 71 innings.

You would think both coaches would want a one-game series and let the aces face each other in a winner-take-all one gamer. But it will be a best of three with the series beginning Friday night at Alvarado. I wonder if Barrick flipped for a best of three and won?

The reason I say that is because Barrick has discovered a new starting pitcher, Aaron Wheeler, who is 3-0 in his last three starts, including a playoff win over Iowa Park. The Rams also have three or four other players who have started on the hill this year, meaning the team is in good shape if they need to play a third game.

But now that we know it is a series, this is where the “chess match” ensues. Neither coach will allow who he is going to pitch to start the series.

If you are Barrick, do you want Tincher to face Lemons in a No. 1 vs. No. 1 matchup? Probably not. Barrick has won four playoff series’ in the last two years by starting Tincher in the second game. But he will not commit to saying he will continue this trend.

If Barrick knows Hall will throw Lemons in game two, then Barrick would probably want Tincher to start the opener. If Hall starts Lemons in game one, Barrick will probably throw Wheeler knowing in all likelihood Tincher can beat Alvarado’s No. 2 starting pitcher.

Which would bring us to a game three, where Barrick feels he has a strong committee of experienced pitchers ready to work for an inning or two or three, however far they can go before running out of gas.

Ah, the playoffs. So intriguing, and so much fun to talk about.

Play ball!