Mineral Wells Index
By CLINT FOSTER
LAKE WORTH – With the game on the line in the bottom of the seventh inning, sophomore Braxton Allen took the hill.
His Mineral Wells Rams (10-8) had just clawed their way to a 3-2 lead after an intense pitching battle on the road against the Lake Worth Bullfrogs in their District 6-3A opener.
With his arm warm, Allen turned his back to the plate, pointed to the sky and wrote something with his finger in the dirt of the pitcher's mound.
The ritual was out of homage to his late mother, Robin, who passed unexpectedly last September, rocking the Mineral Wells community.
"I knew she was on the mound with me," Allen said after the game.
With his mother watching, Allen engineered a 1-2-3 inning, earning the save and a 3-2 victory for the Rams to start their District 6-3A slate 1-0.
"I've been through baseball all my life and I've been in that position a million times," Allen said of the save situation. "It doesn't make me nervous at all or anything. It's just another thing for me to do. I just wanted to blow it by them to get out of the inning."
Allen's save was the culmination of a fantastic team effort in a hard-fought contest. Despite jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning – thanks to singles from Chris Rapp and Colby Kissinger and some smart base running – Mineral Wells quickly found itself in an epic pitching struggle that forced the Rams to earn everything they got.
It was the type of win that builds a team like little else can.
"It was a tough win," head coach Bret Barrick said. "We didn't play bad, we just made some mistakes. We gave them their two runs on three errors. When you don't play clean, everybody's equal.
"Chris pitched well and then Braxton came in and did a good job of shutting them down when we needed him to. I'm happy. I'm pleased with the win. Ugly, pretty, it doesn't matter. We've just got to come back and go to work tomorrow and get ready for Diamond Hill on Friday."
Rapp was a force on the mound through the first 4 1/3 innings, allowing only two hits and five walks and posting five strikeouts. He pitched four straight shutout innings before finding himself in trouble in the fifth frame.
After Lake Worth scored it's first run, the Bullfrogs quickly loaded the bases with one out, which led Barrick to call Allen out of his catcher's gear and onto the mound.
Allen inherited quite a jam, but wriggled his way out of it with two strikeouts that re-energized the entire Ram squad.
An error in the sixth brought home Lake Worth's second score to tie the game at 2-2, but Mineral Wells would not go down so easily.
Batting out of the nine-hole, Frank Jackson reached first base on a throwing error to lead off the seventh inning with enough time to turn the corner and slide into second. A groundout from Rapp moved him to third with one out to set up the play of the game.
"Frank's got wheels," Barrick said. "I knew we had wheels on the ground. If we could bunt him to third, now we've got a runner at third base with one out and we've got an opportunity to bunt or hit. (Lake Worth's pitcher) was real slow on his approach to the plate out of the windup. I thought, 'Well, we're going to squeeze and, even if we don't get it down, we've got a chance to steal home.'"
Barrick sent his runner when Lake Worth's pitcher started his wind up and Jackson crossed the plate moments after Kissinger laid down the game winning bunt.
Another shut down inning from Allen, and that was all she wrote.
"We got that monkey off our back: that first district win," Barrick said. "Now we've got the nerves out of the way and we're ready to go. Hopefully we'll settle down and start playing a little better defense. We've got to clean up our defensive mistakes."
Now 1-0 in District 6-3A, the Rams return home to Pratt Field, where they will host Diamond Hill-Jarvis to end the week. First pitch is set for 7:30 p.m., Friday.