Mineral Wells Index
— By CLINT FOSTER
KENNEDALE – It was like something out of a dream or a movie.
McCain Mason played with a bloody thigh, Braxton Allen pitched a complete game, Frank Jackson and Chris Ortiz sparked the offense and, for the first time in recent history, the Mineral Wells Rams (13-8, 4-0) beat the Kennedale Wildcats, 5-4, Friday night, to put themselves all alone in first place in District 6-3A.
"I can't even think right now," head coach Bret Barrick said after the victory, beaming with pride for his team. "That game right there showed the heart, the love for the game and the love for each other that we have.
"I’ll tell you something, tonight I had 14 kids over there in that dugout and they just pulled for each other and they came together. They fought for each other.
"I can’t tell you how proud I am of each and every one of those guys and how much heart and guts they had. Their goal was to win a district championship and now the district championship has got to come through Mineral Wells. You’ve got to come through Mineral Wells and take it from us now. And that’s the spot we wanted to be in."
The Rams have been close to conquering Kennedale before. Just last year, Mineral Wells found themselves leading the Wildcats, 2-1, on the road, only to watch the 'Cats storm back to a 3-2 win.
But these Rams were determined not to let history repeat itself.
Mineral Wells jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning on the strength of two singles from Mason and Ortiz and some timely base running from Tanner Newsome and later Ortiz on a fielder's choice, initiated by Chris Rapp.
As Allen held the 'Cats scoreless through the first three frames, the Rams added onto their lead as they put five men on base, including a Jackson single that drove home leadoff man Cameron Bullock, before the first out of the inning. Jackson later found his way home, as did Rapp on a steal of the plate, to make the score 5-0, Mineral Wells, heading into the bottom of the fourth.
Then adversity struck.
Kennedale got on the board in the fourth on a fielder's choice and made the Rams sweat with a three-run fifth inning to cut Mineral Wells' lead to one in a 5-4 game.
It was in this inning that Mason took a spike to his thigh that caused him significant pain and Barrick said might require stitches. But, in true Curt Schilling fashion, the sophomore played through it.
"It hurts, I’ll tell you that much," Mason said with a laugh after the game. "I think I’ll just let it rest. It’s just one of those things. It happens. It’s a part of baseball: a great game."
Absolutely vital to the Rams' ability to close out the game with two scoreless innings and preserve the win was Allen, who threw 122 pitches in his complete-game victory.
With tears in his eyes after the win, Allen gave all of the credit to his brothers in the dugout.
"I just love my team," he said. "They’re always there for me, even when I’m down. If I’m down in the count and screwing up, they’re always there for me. They’ve got my back, no matter what. I just love them with all my heart.
"If we play like we did today, nobody can beat us."
Allen's mindset is certainly not unmerited. For the first time in a long time, the Rams can say, without a shred of doubt, that they are the class of District 6-3A. But the season's not over yet. Another road matchup against Castleberry looms on Friday after a break for testing.
Barrick said it is imperative that his team maintain their focus to close out the season as champions.
"Castleberry’s a trap game," he said. "If we come out and play flat, they’ll beat us. We’ve got to focus and come out and play our game."
Mason echoed his coaches sentiment. With the ink barely dry on the Kennedale scorebook, Mason said he was already thinking about the Lions game.
"My mindset's to go with the next one," he said plainly. "This one’s over with. God really blessed us with this win and kept me strong back there. Bo pitched a great game. Everybody got the bats hot and ran the bases out. We’ve just got to look forward from here."
And go forward, they will.
First pitch for the Castleberry game is set for 7:30 p.m., April 4, in Fort Worth.