By TONY EIERDAM
Last year, with starting pitchers Matt “Moose” Tincher and Hunter McCoy on the hill, the Mineral Wells Rams advanced four rounds deep in the Class 3A playoffs.
This year, the Rams will be looking hard for that second starting hurler as Tincher – a left-hander and a college and pro prospect – is the lone returning starting pitcher.
It will take three tournaments and a few non-district games for head coach Bret Barrick to find that second starter, but there is not a coach in all of high school baseball who would not want the big lefty on the hill for his team.
“Right now, Matt is one of the best left-handed pitchers in the state of Texas,” Barrick said. “Whether he gets drafted by a Major League Baseball team depends on what kind of a senior year he has.
“If he got drafted it would probably be a late-round pick, so I see him going to college and playing.”
Tincher overpowered hitters last year with a fast ball, but over the summer he developed other pitches.
“Matt has always had a good fast ball, but this year he is throwing his curve ball consistently for strikes,” Barrick said. “I mean, he was throwing it on any count and in any situation for a strike. He is good, and to get by us teams will have to get by him.
“Offensively, he swings the bat well and is one of our better hitters. He will hit in the 3 or 4 hole for us this year. We will count on him to drive in runs.”
Other pitchers include Aaron Wheeler, McCain Mason, freshman Braxton Allen, Brandon Martinez, Bob Boudreau, Dan Reay Turk, Justyn Lee, Paden Patino and Colby Kissinger. Kissinger and Patino are starters in the infield.
Brandon Sanchez returns as starting catcher after a brilliant season in 2012. Other catchers include Allen and Wheeler.
In the infield, the Rams will have a huge hole to fill at shortstop as four-year starter Bryson Allen has left to play in college. Barrick said several players will audition for the job. The shortstop situation gets stickier when considering the starter in the Rams’ last game, Chris Rapp, is also a front runner to become the second starting pitcher.
If Rapp also starts on the mound, the Rams will need to find a shortstop for when Rapp pitches.
The rest of the infield is solid with Patino at third and Colby Kissinger at second base. However, Tincher is also the starting first baseman when he isn’t pitching, meaning the Rams will need another “starter” at first base when the Moose is on the hill.
“We are pretty solid in the infield, and although we do not have a clear-cut first baseman to take Matt’s place when he pitches, we have a lot of good prospects,” Barrick said. “Colby (District 6-3A Newcomer of the Year in 2012) will stay at second base and he has turned into a solid player, and Chris Rapp and Allen (Bryson’s brother) have looked good at shortstop.
“When Rapp is pitching, we have to have someone in there at shortstop, and so far Braxton is filling that role. If we needed to we could also slide Kissinger to shortstop. We have a lot of different combinations we can go with.
“Rapp is doing a good job at shortstop, and Paden Patino is doing a good job at third base.”
Others on varsity fighting for playing time in the infield are Lee, Mason
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From page 4
(also a catcher), Kristian Santibanez, Cameron Bullock, Boudreau, Chance Wade, Aaron Wheeler, Caleb Acosta and Brayden Garcia.
In the outfield, Martinez returns as starting center fielder, and he could end up being one of the top center fielders in the area. Turk will start in right field, but left field is still open
“Brandon can run balls down, an he has a strong, accurate arm,” Barrick said. “He can put it on the bag. If someone wants to take an extra base on him they better be very fast.
“Dan Reay has been a surprise, and he is a hard worker who is solid defensively and has a good arm. He is also coming around with his bat as we saw last year in the playoffs.
“Left field is another spot where we can play several different people.
“Aaron Wheeler will be out there when he is not pitching, and we have a number of kids we can slide over there when Aaron is pitching.
“We have flexibility in our lineup, and (in non-district play) we want to try move people around and try to get as many people as much playing time as we can.
“Depending on who is pitching could result in a different lineup for a particular pitcher.
“Defensively, we feel we will be pretty good.”
Other vying for playing time in the outfield include Sean McGuire, Travis Mallory and Danny Ralls.
For the last four years, Barrick never worried about who he would pencil in as the lead-off hitter as Bryson Allen filled that role for four seasons.
This year, leadoff is also a spot where Barrick may try several players in order to find the right fit.
Ironically, in the Rams’ home opener on Friday, Bryson’s brother, freshman Braxton Allen, was the leadoff hitter.
“We will try several different people in the leadoff spot before district,” Barrick said. “The leadoff spot is the hardest place in the lineup to bat because you have to be unselfish as a hitter.
“A leadoff has to take some pitches to let his teammates get a look at the pitcher’s different pitches.
“A leadoff also has to be a good two-strike hitter. We will ask the leadoff to get on base, and that means sacrificing a chance to get a hit to work a walk. It’s a tough spot to be in.”
The Rams will take a “wait-and-see” approach to their offensive philosophy in terms of small ball versus hitting for big innings. Barrick said the situation will dictate the philosophy.
“Our offensive philosophy will change from game to game,” Barrick said. “It depends on how we are swinging the bat.
“We could go into a game wanting to rip the ball in the first three innings, or if I feel we aren’t seeing the ball as well or a pitcher is overpowering us, we could switch to doing some ‘small ball’ type stuff like bunting and hit-and-run and different things like that.
“It all depends on the game, what we are seeing in the game and how the game is going.
“It will come down to what we are able to execute against a particular team that can help us be successful.
“It could change from game to game, inning to inning or week to week.
“If the middle of the lineup is on fire, of course I am going to let them swing the bats.
“But if someone is struggling we may ask them to bunt. We want to be able to hit the ball, but we also have to be good at small ball as well. We want to be well-rounded.”
With a pitcher like Tincher on the mound, the Rams could go deeper in the playoffs this year compared to a year ago. Barrick said the team feels it can take that next step.
“I think, because of the last two years, this team has raised its overall expectations,” Barrick said. “They expect to not only be a playoff team, but to be one of the best teams in the area. They like the pressure, and they expect to perform under pressure.”
By TONY EIERDAM
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