Mineral Wells Index
— By CLINT FOSTER
On a chilly Tuesday night, Allie Stephens brought the heat in Mineral Wells.
Pitching in her second consecutive start, the junior overcame five walks and a hit batter to hold rival Springtown hitless through the first five innings, en route to a 10-3 victory for the Lady Rams (20-5) at Kessler Field.
The win keeps Mineral Wells undefeated in District 6-3A play at 4-0 and tied with Kennedale for first place – a tie that won't last long as the Lady Rams travel to Kennedale, Friday, for a showdown with the Lady Kats for district supremacy.
Stephens got credit for the win, putting her season record at 8-3, as she allowed one measly hit in the sixth inning and fanned seven batters before sophomore Kelsey Keeton took over in the seventh to close the game out.
"Allie pitched well tonight, not great, but very well," head coach David Tarver said after the game. "She had five walks and a hit batter and usually when you see that out of a pitcher, you say they're struggling. But she came back and kept runners off the board.
"She took a no-hitter going into the sixth inning. When a pitcher's is struggling a little bit, puts six runners on base and still has a no-hitter on top of it, that's pretty strong. I'm proud of her."
Overall, the Lady Rams' most recent win over Springtown in district play was not unlike their two previous wins over the Lady Porcupines in non-district tournaments. All three times, Mineral Wells won by a comfortable margin, but allowed Springtown to score three runs on preventable mistakes.
Tarver said he noticed the similarities.
"We've done that all three games against Springtown now: we've jumped out to a big lead and they scored three runs we gave them," he said. "You hate to say anything about it because they're big, blowout wins, but you'd also like to see that stuff cleaned up and us finish the game and just kind of drive that nail in the coffin and put it away. But, overall positive."
As they often do, the Lady Rams started fast, racking up five runs in the game's opening frame thanks to singles from Bethany Allen, Victoria Huffman, Keeton and Stephens and some aggressive base running.
Also, in the top of the first inning, Mineral Wells retired the side on a play they had failed to successfully execute twice in the past. With runners at first and third and two outs, catcher Hope Patterson rocketed the ball to second to catch a runner stealing and end the half inning. Tarver said he was pleased to see the progress in that situation.
"We'll keep plugging on those situations when we get opportunities," he said. "Tonight it paid off big, shutting that down right off the bat in the first inning. It kind of quelled (Springtown's) confidence a little bit."
The Lady Rams continued to play strong in both halves of each inning, highlighted by a three-run fourth and solid defensive plays, including double plays to end the top of the third and fourth frames.
The first double play came on a heads up play by Addison Singleton in left field, who caught a fly ball for the second out and had the presence of mind to then pick off the runner at first. The second was a 1-6-3 double play on a second-chance opportunity for Allen, who's throw on the previous double play attempt was just off-target.
Keeton had a superlative game on offense in addition to pitching a one-hit seventh. She was a perfect 3-for-3 with two RBIs, a walk and two runs. Patterson also performed well at the plate, walking three times before she made Springtown pay for putting the ball in her wheelhouse with a triple in the fifth inning.
With the Springtown game behind them, the Lady Rams bring a five-game winning streak into Kennedale for a massive showdown to decide first-place in the district. Tarver said his team is well-aware of the stakes and prepared to turn in their best performance yet.
"It's a little more important this year than it has been in the past," he said. "I don't think, in the past, that we got over that Kennedale mystique. But I honestly believe, this year, this team doesn't believe in that.
"We're 20-5 now and we're rolling. Nobody we've stepped on the field with has had a mystique for us. We've stepped on the field and competed. Iowa Park has had our number for three or four years and we rolled them.
"I expect a good game and sure would like to come out of it on top as the front-runner for the district championship."
First pitch of the big game is set for 7:30 p.m., Friday, at Kennedale's softball complex.