By TONY EIERDAM
DECATUR – Last year, Mineral Wells head baseball coach Bret Barrick guided the Rams through four rounds of the playoffs by waiting to pitch his ace, all-state lefty Matt “Moose” Tincher, until the second game of each best-of-three series.
The strategy keeps working. Paced by a three-hit, 14-strikeout effort by Tincher, the Rams defeated the Iowa Park Hawks, 8-1, here Saturday in game two to sweep the best-of-three bi-district playoff series two games to none.
The Ram won the opener on Friday, 5-2.
MWHS advances to the area round of the playoffs and will face Alvarado, the District 7-3A champion that earned a bye in the first round.
Tincher, who walked only one batter and allowed just three hits, struck out the first three batters he faced, struck out the side again in the fifth and ended the game with a called strikeout.
“I had everything working for me, and I felt great (Saturday),” Tincher said. “My arm was warm and I felt in control.
“It feels good to advance in the playoffs, and we know what it is like and we know we have to keep working harder to do what we did last year and to improve on what we did last year. We plan on making a deep run.”
Barrick was pleased to see his lefty in dominating fashion.
“Matt kept them off guard all day,” Barrick said. “He got a couple of balls up and they used the wind for a couple of extra-base hits, but for the most part he was in control.”
The win marks the third year in a row the Rams have advanced to the area (second) round. Barrick choked up slightly when talking about his team and his “right-hand man,” assistant coach Will Burnes.
“I am fortunate,” Barrick said. “I am fortunate that I get to coach these guys. These kids love the game of baseball, and they play hard all of the time.
“That’s all you can ever ask for as a coach. They show up every day and just want to play. I get choked up because it is such a blessing to be at a place where the kids just love to play the game.
“I am also blessed to have my coaches. Will is one of the best assistant coaches in the state, and he is more than just a good pitching coach.
“Coach Burnes is my right-hand man, and he makes my job a lot easier. I will take him over anybody.”
The Rams swatted 10 hits, with Aaron Wheeler going three-for-three with three singles, and Brandon Martinez hitting a pair of doubles.
Iowa Park pitcher Rody Johnson fooled the Rams early with slow pitches and curve balls, but once MWHS saw him for a third time the bats went off.
Of the 10 hits, seven came in the last three innings, including three extra-base hits.
“Johnson kept us off balance with the slow stuff,” Barrick said. “But once our kids made adjustments they did good things at the plate and hit the ball hard.”
The Rams took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning when Dan Reay Turk reached on an error and scored two batters later on a double to left field by Martinez.
It would be Turk who would later play a bigger role at the plate.
With the game still in plenty of doubt, the Rams, with just two hits to this point, went into the bottom of the fourth still holding a precarious one-run lead.
With one out, Wheeler ripped a base hit to center field and promptly stole second base.
The next batter, first baseman Bob Boudreau, lofted a towering double to right field.
But Wheeler had to stay close to second in case the ball was caught, and when it wasn’t he got a late start and Barrick smartly held him at third base.
Turk followed with a key play that gave Tincher some breathing room.
With a 1-1 count, Turk executed a perfectly-place squeeze bunt to bring in Wheeler for a 2-0 lead.
“Dan Reay’s squeeze bunt was huge,” Barrick said.
“When he (Barrick) called for a bunt,” Turk said, “I knew I could get it down. I got a good pitch down the middle and almost beat the throw.”
Inspired by his two-run cushion, Tincher struck out the Iowa Park side in the fifth.
The Rams responded with five runs in the bottom of the inning to put the game away.
The big hits in the inning were a run-scoring double by Tincher, a single from Wheeler that drove in a run, a sacrifice fly by Boudreau and an RBI single from Turk.
On Turk’s base hit, an additional run scored on an error that extended the MWHS lead to 7-0.
The Rams added a run in the sixth for an 8-0 advantage.
Martinez drew a lead-off walk, advanced to second on a wild pitch and gained third base after tagging on a deep fly out to right field off the bat of Colby Kissinger.
Tincher drove in Martinez on a fielder’s choice groundout.
Iowa Park closed the scoring in the seventh on an unearned run, but Tincher struck out three batters in the frame to preserve the victory.
After slow start, MWHS swats 10 hits in 8-1 series-clinching win over Iowa Park
By TONY EIERDAM
- Local Sports
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