By TONY EIERDAM
In a season where they never had their entire personnel on the field and healthy at the same time, the Mineral Wells Lady Rams softball not only persevered, but at the same time made school history.
Despite a second-place finish in District 6-3A and a roster with seemingly a different injured player or players each week, the Lady Rams fought through it and reached the third round of the playoffs – the regional quarterfinals – for the first time in MWHS history in 2013.
“From start to finish, we had injuries and never really ever had the entire team healthy at any one point,” Lady Rams head coach David Tarver said. “We had everything from torn muscles to rib cartilage injuries to illnesses and injuries we had no clue what they were.
“Allie Stephens hurt her back, and there wasn’t ever a pinpoint diagnosis, and she was out 6-7 weeks. She was finally told it would not get better until resting it after the season. She actually played through her back trouble.
“We had more injuries in one year to deal with than I have ever had as a head softball coach. Kelsey Keeton was also injured, but she pitched through it knowing Allie was hurt and that Hope (Patterson) also could not pitch because of a leg injury.
“The girls had every chance, all season long, to just make excuses, but they did not. The girls fought and played through it, and others stepped in when we had injuries and played hard.
“These girls never took an opportunity to make excuses. They just worked that much harder and made school history.”
It was also a banner season for senior catcher Reagan Patterson, who led the team in home runs (10), hits (61), doubles (17), runs batted in (56) and batting average (.465) as well as being tied for the team lead in triples with two.
She also had more put outs from her catching position than any catcher in district. Teams simply quit trying to run on Patterson in the second half of district play.
“Reagan has done a phenomenal job at catcher, and she had a career year this year,” Tarver said. “At a few points this year I just sat back and enjoyed watching it.
“She got hot at the plate and I never said a word of instruction to her. I just zipped my lips and watched her perform. I also trusted her to call pitches during a game.
“She called some of the pitches her sophomore and junior years, but she called all of the pitches this year. I was a catcher in high school and I got to call the pitches, so I had trust in Reagan to do the same. She called great games, and she worked hard with all of the pitchers.
“We would talk about the hitters before the game and what I wanted to call in certain situations, and I never had to tell Reagan anything twice. I would give Reagan the game plan and she would take over.
“It was great having a player like that who you can trust. That made our team that much better.”
Tarver will also say goodbye to four-year varsity member Chandler Ortiz, who he always referred to as “the heart and soul” of the team.
“I am really going to miss Chandler,” Tarver said. “She was the heart and soul of this team.
“My relationship with Chandler inside of the school but outside of softball was unlike I have ever had with many athletes. We have a special
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bond, much like I have with BB (Allen) and her family.
“Chandler is a great kid, and I was fortunate enough to have a bond with her that I could go to her and say ‘I need you to do this for the team’ or ‘I need you to have this conversation with the team’ when I needed her to. We also talked a lot about life.
“It was just a special deal, and Chandler was the total package of athlete and student.”
The Lady Rams played without question their toughest non-district schedule in recent years. The Lady Rams took an 18-11 record into District 6-3A play, finishing with an 8-2 mark in 6-3A and a 26-13 overall record. The two district losses were both to Kennedale as MWHS swept Springtown, Diamond Hill, Castleberry and Lake Worth in league action.
“We played the toughest non-district schedule I have ever had a team play,” Tarver said. “We played Brownwood, Graham – multiple times – and Celina, just to name a few.
“We were one out away from beating Celina, but it was a learning experience. It also gave the girls confidence that they took a state champion (2011) and regional finalist (2012) to the brink and were just one out away from defeating them.
“The biggest deal about the Celina game was that we showed we belonged among the better teams in the area. Our tournament was the toughest we had ever had, and we proved we belonged.”
A low point of the season came in the first game of the area playoff series against Graham. The opener was played at Graham, where the Lady Blues defeated the Lady Rams by nine runs.
However, the Lady Rams came back on Saturday and took a pair of games to clinch the series and make school history.
“The moment I knew this was a very special team was game two against Graham in the playoffs,” Tarver said. “We just got beat 10-1 the day before in game one, and to start game two we give up a two-run homer.
“But the next inning we got hot at the plate. When we scored the go-ahead run that put us up 3-2, at that point I felt the special hit me. I knew this team had a lot more in them than just hitting the ball and making plays. I felt they had a special quality overall as a team.
“The girls showed the same quality in game two of the Burkburnett game. And don’t forget that this team also came back in the first game of the area series against Hillsboro down 6-1 and scored 15 unanswered runs to take that game.”
Tarver feels his team did not get any breaks in the second game of the regional quarterfinal series loss to Burkburnett.
“We just didn’t get the breaks we needed (in game two),” he said. “There were four very close calls in the second Burk game, and none of them went our way.
“Now, I am not blaming the umpires. In fact, that was the best crew we had all year. I am just saying four close plays didn’t go our way, where as we had all the breaks go our way when we beat Graham twice at our place in the area round.
“Sometimes you get the breaks, and against Burk we just didn’t get any. Burk made good plays and the umpires made good calls.”
Tarver said he will never forget the group that made up the 2013 Lady Rams softball team.
“These girls have given me a special memory,” he said. “It is hard not to get choked up talking about this group. There are special players and special personalities on this team that I have grown very fond of.
“With all the hardships and injuries we faced this year, this team produced a special season – a season I will remember for the rest of my life.
“Every time I see a picture of this team, every time I hear one of their names or any time I see any of these girls out in public, I will always remember this season and what these girls meant to me.”
By TONY EIERDAM
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