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.