By TONY EIERDAM
It was a classic pitching duel, an almost errorless ball game and a contest between two teams – the Mineral Wells Rams and the Kennedale Wildcats – which Thursday night at Pratt Field decided which squad would take the lead in the District 6-3A race at the halfway point of league play.
Two all-state pitchers went after each other, and in the end Kennedale’s Justin Jakubisin slightly out dueled Matt “Moose” Tincher as the Wildcats slipped past the Rams, 3-1, to take a one-game lead over the Rams in the race for a district championship.
The two teams will meet again on April 19 at Kennedale in the district finale.
Rams head coach Bret Barrick was not discouraged – and seemed very encouraged – following the well-played ball game.
“We are starting to play better baseball,” Barrick said. “We have improved in each of our last three games. We are hitting the ball better, and our pitching has been really good.
“We are starting to peak, and that’s what we want to do at this point of the season. We want to hit our stride in the second half of district and run through it, and when we get down to the final game of district I think it will be between us and Kennedale playing for the district championship.”
Jakubisin allowed a run on two hits and seemed to get stronger as the game progressed.
Tincher allowed three runs on six hits with two walks and nine strikeouts in seven innings.
“The kids played their guts out (Thursday), and Matt did a great job on the mound,” Barrick said. “He was throwing everything well, and he kept them off balance. He was throwing his curve ball for strikes, and he was spotting his fast ball.
“He would rear back every now and then and put a little extra on his fast ball just to let them know he had it so they would have to be ready for that. he did a good job, and coach (Will) Burnes did a good job of calling the game, as did (freshman catcher) Braxton (Allen) when he called some of the pitches.
“It was a clean baseball game, and when you have two good teams playing each other that is how it is supposed to be. (Kennedale pitcher Justin Jakubisin) also did a good job of keeping us off balance.
“We put the ball in play, we just hit it right to them. Sometimes you have games like that.”
Kennedale scored in the top of the first inning, but the Rams matched the score to tie the contest at 1-1.
Mineral Wells center fielder Brandon Martinez led off and was awarded first base after being hit by a pitch.
Colby Kissinger followed with a sacrifice bunt to get Martinez in scoring position.
Two batters later, second baseman Paden Patino singled to left to drive in Martinez to tie the score.
Kennedale took the lead for good with two runs in the top of the sixth.
The Rams had appeared to throw out the Wildcats’ leadoff batter in the frame on a ground out, but the field umpire ruled the batter had beaten the throw. The next batter reached on an infield single to put runners on first and second with no outs.
Kennedale singled to score a run and scored another on a fielder’s choice ground out as the ‘Cats led by two runs after 5 1/2 innings.
The Rams got a runner on in each of the fifth and sixth innings, each time courtesy of a walk, but could not get either runner past second base.
Jakubisin retired the side in order in the seventh to seal the win and put his team in first place.
By TONY EIERDAM
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