By TJ MAXWELL
The Copperas Cove Lady Dawgs softball team looked like it may be in trouble after the San Angelo Central Lady Cats cut their lead from four runs to just two with a fifth-inning rally.
The Lady Dawgs, however, responded in the bottom half of the inning with eight runs on five hits, including a pair of base-clearing triples by sophomore best friends Addie Cook and Jayda Carter, to pull away with a 13-3 run-rule victory over the Lady Cats.
“I like it,” Copepras Cove head coach Bryan Waller said after the game. “We learned that hitting is contagious and we had two big innings.
“Central is a very good team and they’re very well coached. They didn’t give up the entire game. They fought their way back in.”
Carter, who just got under the ball in her last attempt at bat earlier in the inning, made good contact in her final at bat for a walk-off three RBI triple to earn the Lady Dawgs the 13-3 victory in the District 8-6A home opener.
“I was feeling very confident because I’ve been working with the coaches making sure my swing and stance was right to make sure I could get good contact,” said Carter. I was just confident going up. I do a little shake-off before I go up to shake off all the nerves and take a deep breath.
“I was hoping they wouldn’t catch it because they caught the last one and I was so mad about it but you can’t let that effect you up there because it will bleed through the game.”
Although Carter cleared the table, the eight-run inning was a team effort as eight of the nine batters reached base in the inning and all nine reached base on the afternoon.
“A lot of girls stepped up and did what they needed to do,” said Waller. “They performed their jobs well yet it wasn’t a flawless game. There are things we can learn from and improve on.”
Senior Riley Collier kick started the Lady Dawgs’ effort with a leadoff single before a double to centerfield by freshman Jackie Clay and a walk by senior Peyton Choate loaded the bases for Cook and she took full advantage.
“Addie came up with that big hit to get it going for us,” said Waller. “That gave a lot of breathing room for us and gave a sigh of relief for the girls. They were having a lot more fun and just kept going.”
With the outfield creeping up, Cook laced a shot over the outstretched arms of Central left fielder Tori Ontiveras to give the Lady Dawgs a five-run cushion, 8-3.
“The one I hit was outside and I hate outside pitches so I was proud of myself for hitting it,” said Cook.
Four batters later, Cook’s best friend Carter repeated the feat in a very similar fashion. Cook’s triple sailed over Ontivares while Carter’s bounced in front of her. Two more free bases earned by pinch hitter Maria Hanna and Collier again juiced the bases for the Carter walk-off triple to deep left field.
“She’s my best friend so right after that she came up, hugged me and said, ‘Jayda we just did the same thing,’” said Carter. “It was fun.”
“I was just so proud of her,” Cook said of her friend’s walk-off triple. “It was just amazing. I’m honesty speechless about the win. We improved dramatically in this game. We kind of went downhill and were struggling a little bit but this game was definitely a table-turner. I’m so proud of our team for working together.”
The Lady Dawgs were a home run away from the cycle in the inning and Carter feels the team feeding off each other is key to those big innings and wins.
“I think it’s very important because we have to carry on the momentum because, if we don’t, it can lead us to slow innings like the first and third. It’s good that we came back and fed off of each other to run-rule them.”
Cove junior pitcher Elana Montanez allowed two of the first four batters faced to earned free bases before retiring eight of the nine following batters to help the Lady Dawgs build a 5-1 lead.
The one hit she surrendered during the span was a home run over the left field wall by Marisa Cruz to lead off the third inning.
“Elana fought threw some things but she stayed consistent and steady and got them to hit where we wanted them to hit the ball,” said Waller.
A grounder to Collier at first base by Central’s Aimee Rodriguez and a line drive gobbled up by Clay at shortstop ended the threat in the inning.
The Lady Dawgs were able to connected with a couple pitches over the next two innings on a two-out shot by Choate in the bottom of the third and a two-out single by Montanez in the fourth but both runners were left stranded on groundouts to third base and shortstop, respectively.
The Lady Cats got their offense going in the top of the fifth when Cruz again connected from with a one-out single to left field and starting pitcher Sydnie Gilbert helped her cause with an RBI double to centerfield.
The only two errors of the game for the Lady Cats also allowed Gilbert to score to cut the Cove lead to two, 5-3, and put the potential go-ahead run at the plate in designated player Maddie Stewart.
However, a diving stab on another line drive by Clay at shortstop ended the Lady Cats rally and chances at victory.
“I’m pleased with our defensive efforts,” said Waller. “We made some great line drive catches and Jackie made some great stops at shortstop. That’s been something I’ve been hoping to see all yearlong. Hopefully, that gets her going and more woken up defensively.
“Jackie has been swinging a good, consistent bat all yearlong.”
The Lady Dawgs (8-7-1 overall, 1-1 in District 8-6A) travel to Killeen to face the Ellison Lady Eagles tonight before returning home for a noon showdown with Shoemaker on Monday.
“They’re going to fight us,” Waller said of Ellison. “They want a playoff spot just like we do and, to get there, they have to be ahead of more teams than we had to in the past. They are going to give their best effort at their place. They are a good hitting club. We’re going to need to put the ball over the plate and we are going to have to stay patient and hit the ball.”
Carter (2 for 4, 2B, 3B, 3RBIS, R) led the Cove bats along with Cook (1 for 3, 3B, 3RBIs, 2R), Montanez (2 for 4, 2B, 2R), Clay (2 for 3, R) and Choate (1 for 3, R, 2BB). Montanez picked up the win from the circle. She surrendered three earned runs on four hits in five innings while strinking out seven and walking three.
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