Mineral Wells Index
By CLINT FOSTER
FORT WORTH – One week removed from their first loss in District 6-3A this season, the Mineral Wells Lady Rams (21-6, 5-1) took out some frustration on the Castleberry Lady Lions, crushing two home runs and playing some small ball en route to a 12-2 victory at Castleberry's Camp Carter Baseball and Softball Complex, Friday night.
"The positive is it was a win," head coach David Tarver said after the game. "With anything, nothing's ever perfect and there are some things we get to go home and work on. We were hitting the ball hard and only gave up two runs. They were hitting the ball hard, too, and made us hustle around a few times, but that's a good thing."
With the exception of RBI singles from Victoria Huffman and Anaiz Mendoza and a myriad of timely walks, the bulk of the scoring offense was produced by two Lady Rams: Hope Patterson and Allie Stephens, both of whom went yard in the win.
Patterson, who crushed her second long ball in as many games during the first inning, was responsible for a team-leading five RBIs. She was a perfect 2-for-2 at the plate, drawing two walks and improving her season batting average to .568 – good for second on the team behind Bethany Allen's .593 mark.
Friday's solo shot was Patterson's sixth homer of the season, making her the team-leader by a wide margin. Only two other Lady Rams have hit a ball out this season: Ashley Valdez and, after Friday, Stephens.
"Every time Hope steps up to the plate, it's always in the back of your mind that this one's got a chance to go out," Tarver said. "She's capable of doing it on any swing."
For Stephens, her fourth-inning bomb was not only her first of the season, but the first of her entire career. It was truly a special moment as she watched the ball fly that would put the Lady Rams up, 11-2.
When the ball passed the outfield wall, she threw her arms up in the air in triumph on her way to first as an elated Mineral Wells dugout jumped and yelled for joy as they raced to home plate to meet her.
"It was pretty crazy," Stephens said with a big smile. "I don't hit home runs. I told my dad yesterday I wasn't going to, ever. So, it was pretty cool."
"It was exciting," Tarver said. "Coach (Taylor) Reid told me in the dugout when (Stephens) was running to first base she was tearing up a little bit. As soon as she saw it go out, I saw her reaction and when she came around to third, I said, 'That was your first one?' and she said, 'Yep,' all smiles.
"It's one of those great things in life. You play sports and sports are fun and give you memories for a lifetime. That's a memory right there that everybody here got to partake in. She's a junior now, she's been playing her whole life and just hit her first home run of her career. It's fun to be a part of that stuff."
Stephens also turned in a solid start at pitcher for the Lady Rams, tossing three innings with three hits, two runs (one earned), a home run, a walk, and six strikeouts. She said her fastball was working particularly well and that the Lady Lions were chasing her risers.
Sophomore Kelsey Keeton would close out the game with two scoreless frames, allowing three hits and throwing three strikeouts.
The breakout inning for the Lady Rams came in the form of a fairly unusual five-run second, during which Mineral Wells only had one hit.
Stephens and Addison Singleton walked and Valdez was hit by a pitch to load the bases before the first out – a fielder's choice. Two more walks from Tabby Santibanez and Allen brought home two runs and Huffman's RBI single kept the bases loaded.
Patterson would walk in yet another run before Allen scored the final run on a fielder's choice.
In all, Castleberry's pitcher put six Lady Rams on base that inning without any of them having to swing the bat. She continued to struggle to find the strike zone and finished with 10 walks to only one strikeout.
Looking ahead to Tuesday's home matchup with Lake Worth – a team Mineral Wells beat 13-1 in their previous meeting – Tarver said he is not resting on his laurels.
"Lake Worth has some good athletes," he said. "The top of their order swings the bat very well. Our focus is going to be going in there and shutting down the top of the order and then taking care of business with the bottom of the order.
"You're always going to have something that you need to clean up and (the Castleberry game) gives us some things to work on tomorrow and Monday to get ready for Lake Worth on Tuesday. We've just got to focus on being the better team and playing like it."
First pitch of the Lake Worth game is set for 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, at Kessler Field.