Bulldawg Baseball ekes out 5-4 win in home opener
By TJ MAXWELL
Nearly a year has passed since the 2020 spring sports seasons were washed away due to the Coronavirus pandemic and with it a promising season for the Copperas Cove baseball program.
Copperas Cove head baseball coach Bryant Lopez wasn’t thrilled with the way his team played after the long layoff, but he was ecstatic that the team was getting to play at all.
“It’s a blessing,” Lopez said about get back on the diamond. “We’re here and we’re out playing the game. It seems like we had a two-year offseason. We did all the lifting and running and didn’t even play last year and it’s like we’ve doing offseason for two full years so it’s definitely a blessing.”
It was a fitting end for the Bulldawgs in their home opener against the InterScholastic Baseball League’s Austin Waves Tuesday night after the turbulent 12 months.
An error helped the Bulldawgs build a 4-0 lead before five Cove errors helped the Waves knot the game in the top of the fifth before the second Austin error gave the Bulldawgs a 5-4 lead in the bottom half of the inning.
“There’s a pretty sour taste in my mouth,” Lopez said about the errors. “We know what we can do and how good we can be. When we let guys like that hang around, that’s our fault because we want to kick the ball around and stuff. We’re going to make adjustments, continue to practice, and we’re going to get better.”
Senior Russel Cochran closed out the contest with five strikeouts against the final seven batters to secure the win.
Cochran also joined with junior Travis Sanders with a pair of hits each to lead the Bulldawgs’ offense.
A couple walks by Cove pitcher David Cimmino allowed the Waves to threaten in the top of the first, but a failed steal attempt by Josh Burton and a Cimmino strikeout got the Dawgs out of trouble.
A leadoff single by Sanders and a hit by pitch that put Cochran on the paths put runners in scoring position before an RBI groundout to third by Cimmino and an RBI single to short by Dylan Martinez gave the Bulldawgs a 2-0 lead. A pickoff of Martinez at first base closed out the inning.
Another walk put a runner on for the Waves but a fly out in foul territory and another pickoff throw from Cochran to Sanders ended the threat before another Cimmino strikeout closed the top half of the second.
Jace Johnson got a free pass on a hit batsman to lead off the second inning before a sacrifice by Antonio Espinoza moved Johnson to third and the old suicide squeeze play gave Dekan Radigan the RBI and Johnson the third run for the Bulldawgs.
Cove’s John Garcia then reached and advanced to second on an error before a single by Sanders allowed Garcia to score on the throw when Sanders was thrown out at second trying to stretch the single to a double for a 4-0 Cove lead after two.
A single by Austin’s Jack Merwick put a runner on for Austin before the first of five Cove errors allowed Burton to reach and Merwick to score for the 4-1 score. Burton then scored on a passed ball to cut Coves’ lead in half, 4-2, before Josef Segura was caught stealing to end the top half of the third.
Walks by Cove’s Caden Harris and Martinez, along with a single by Cochran juiced the bases for the Bulldawgs but a pair of strikeouts by Austin’s Logan Shortino ended the threat.
A high fly ball by Shortino was not able to be handled by Cove second baseman Manuel Chaco allowing Owen Ondreyka to score after reaching on a walk and AJ Scovil reaching on an error to move Ondreyka into scoring position for a 4-3 contest in the top of the fourth inning.
A three up, three down bottom of the fourth for Cove set up the tying run for the Waves in the top of the fifth inning.
Consecutive errors allowed the first two Austin runners to reach. Segura then grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, but Merwick was able to score on the play for a 4-4 tie.
Espinoza then struck out pinch hitter Sam Andrus to end the top of the fifth.
Harris then reached on a hit batsman and singles by Cochran and Cimmino the put runners on the paths for Cove, however Harris was caught stealing third and Cochran was put out advancing to second to leave just one runner aboard and one out remaining.
Pinch hitter Brayden Camese the connects on a ground ball that resulted in an error and the go ahead run by Cimmino for the 5-4 Bulldawgs’ lead.
Cochran then earned the win with six putouts in the next seven batters faced in two innings of work.
Cochran finished the game 2 for 2 with a run at the plate and he surrendered no hits and no runs while striking out five on the bump. Sanders followed with 2 for 3 hitting with one RBI and one run. Also contributing offensively were Martinez (1 for 1, R, BB), Cimmino (1 for 3, R, RBI), and Garcia (1 for 3, R).
Cimmino allowed no hits and no runs while walking three and striking out three in two innings of work. Martinez allowed one hit and two unearned runs with one walk and on strikeout in one inning on the bump and Espinoza allowed no hits and two unearned runs while fanning three and walking one in two innings.
Merwick earned the lone hit for the Waves as he was 1 for 4 with two runs, Burton added one run and one walk while Ondreyka added a run and two walks.
Five different pitchers saw work for the Waves surrendering three earned runs on six hits with eight strikeouts and two walks.
The Bulldawgs hit the road for a couple weeks of tournament action, beginning with this weekend’s Pflugerville tournament. They played the LASA Raptors and Marble Falls Mustangs yesterday (results not known as of press time). They continue play today against Round Rock Westwood at 2:40 and Weiss at 5 p.m. before closing out the tournament at 12:20 Saturday against O’Connor.
The Bulldawgs begin district play on Tuesday, March 16 at Belton.
“Before we get back, I want to solidify my starting pitchers for district,” said Lopez. “That’s really the main goal for the tournaments is to see my top two guys, so that’s going to be beneficial for us. Also, it’s going to give me an opportunity to see what the younger guys can do. With all the games we’re going to have, we’re going to let a few younger guys pitch. It also gives us the opportunity to play a lot better opponents.”