Bulldawgs’ historic season ends in three-game bi-district battle
By TJ Maxwell
WEST - The Copperas Cove Bulldawg Baseball team’s historic season came to a close Saturday after battling to a game three in the best-of-three bi-district playoff series against the Irving MacArthur Cardinals.
After a dramatic 7-6 walk-off win in game one on Thursday night and a tight 3-1 loss in game two, the Bulldawgs needed to put everything together on Saturday to continue their storied run.
The Bulldawgs outhit the Cardinals eight to five on Saturday but were unable to capitalize with runners on the base paths while MacArthur scored five runs (three earned) on just five hits to earn the win and move on to face the no. 2 Southlake Carrol in the area round.
“We picked a fine time for our bats to go silent,” said Copperas Cove head baseball coach Dusty Brittain. “We hit the ball real well pretty much all year long, but we just didn’t do it today and we didn’t do it yesterday. Hats off to those guys. They came through with the big hits and they deserved the win.
“I don’t know if it was just the moment or what. The kids worked hard, they were focused in the pre-game and all that kind of stuff. Sometimes, it just doesn’t go your way.”
Just like in game one and game two, the Bulldawgs were first to strike with a run in the top of the first inning on an RBI single by junior Colby Jost but stranded their first two of 12 runners on the night to limit their opportunity to just one run.
After allowing a lead-off walk in the bottom half of the inning, Cove senior pitcher Tyler Ingram induced a 4-6-3 double by started by shortstop Jost and turned by junior second baseman Jacob Wagner to senior Cameron Johnson at first.
Singles by Wagner and Ingram, along with a fielder’s choice by Jost and junior Nick Izquierdo getting hit by the pitch to reach stranded four more runners for the Dawgs over the next two innings before the Cardinals took the lead with a two-run bottom of the third.
The second of four Cove errors on the night allowed Ricky Boren to reach base and advance to third before he was knocked home by Anthony Marrufo.
After groundouts moved him around the paths, an RBI single by Daniel Hernandez knocked Marrufo home for the 2-1 MacArthur lead.
The Dawgs put three more runners on in the top of the fourth, but two of them were again left stranded.
Ingram connected with a one-out single to right field before Jost reached on a fielder’s choice and Izquierdo was hit by the pitch for the second-consecutive at-bat.
Another one-out single by Ingram in the top of the fifth inning went for not as a fielder’s choice and a groundout left another runner stranded.
The Cardinals then took advantage of some Cove miscues to bolster their lead in the bottom half of the inning.
Cardinals’ catcher Junior Torres was hit by a pitch and advanced to third on a stolen base and a wild pitch before being knocked home by Edgar Salas’ RBI single to centerfield. Salas then scored on a Cove fielding error off the bat of Hernandez.
Another one-out single, this one by Wagner, put a runner on and a two-out single by junior Michael Goudeau moved him into scoring position but a flyout ended the opportunity once again.
A two-out double by MacArthur’s Marrufo added the final run of the series to score pitcher Jacob Kincer, who reached on a fielder’s choice.
“That was the story of the night and last night,” said Brittain. “They came through with some two-out hits and we couldn’t come through with a hit. That’s playoff baseball – clutch hitting.”
Cove had one last opportunity and singles by Johnson and Izquierdo put runners on but a fly out, a ground out and a fielder’s choice of the bat of Jost closed out the game 5-1 and the series 2-1.
Wagner went 2 for 3 and Ingram was 2 for 4 to lead the Dawgs’ eight hits on the night. Izqiuerdo (1 for 2), Goudeau (1 for 3, R, BB), Johnson (1 for 4) and Jost (1 for 4, RBI) closed out the Cove hitting. Senior Jaylen Smith also had a walk.
Ingram suffered the loss on the mound for the Dawgs. He allowed five runs (three earned) on five hits while striking out five and walking five.
Marrufo wass 2 for 4, R, 2RBIs) to lead the Cardinals. Salas (1 for 3, R, RBI), Felipe Garcia (1 for 2, BB) and Hernandez (1 for 3, RBI) accounted for the Cardinals’ hits. Ricardo Rodriguez added a pair of walks.
Kincer picked up the win for the Cardinals. He allowed one unearned run on eight hits while striking out two and walking two.
The Dawgs opened the series with a walk-off 7-6 win on Thursday on an RBI single by Josh Ropple.
The Dawgs took a 3-0 led in the first inning on an RBI single by Johnson that scored Goudeau and Ropple, who walked and singled, respectively. Johnson then scored on a sacrifice fly by junior Justin Velesky.
The Dawgs added another run on the bottom of the second inning on another RBI single by Johnson that scored Goudeau after getting hit by the pitch to reach.
The Cardinals cut into the Cove lead with two runs in the top of the third and knotted the game at 4-all with two more runs in the top of the fifth inning.
The Dawgs threatened again in the top of the sixth but stranded three.
The Cardinals took advantage in the bottom half of the inning with two more runs for a 6-4 lead heading into the final inning. Five of the six runners to score for MacArthur reached by walk or an error.
After a 3-up, 3-down top of the seventh, Cove rallied for the game one win on the bottom half.
Wagner drew a one-out walk, Smith was hit by the pitch and Goudeau drew a walk to put three runners on for Cove. Wagner advanced home on a wild pitch to bring Cove within one run before Ropple connected on the walk-off single that scored Smith and Goudeau for the win.
Ropple finished 3 for 5 with a run and two RBIs while Johnson was 2 for 3 with a run and thre RBIs to lead the Dawgs.
Smith picked up the win on the bump. He allowed six runs (three earned) on two hits while striking out 10 and walking six in 5 1/3 innings.
The Dawgs mustered just two hits in Friday’s 3-1 loss. Goudeau was 1 for 4 with a run and Ingram was 1 for 2, RBI, BB).
Johnson suffered the loss on the mound. He allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits while fanning seven and walking two.
The Dawgs finished the season with their best-ever record of 25-6-2 and the highest district finish with the no. 2 seed.
The Dawgs lose five to graduation, including all three playoff starting pitchers - Johnson, Smith and Ingram – along with outfielder Austin Reneau and reserve player Zaye Pettit.
“Those are our guys,” said Brittain. “We rode their coattails for four years now. We had three of them starting on the mound this series. They have been a big part of this and a big part of our leadership. We have big shoes to fill in what is a big junior class. They left a lot to learn from these guys and they are going to go on and do great things.”
Cove returns a whole host of underclassmen with valuable playoff experience including junior starters Jost, Wagner, Ropple, Goudeau, Izquierdo and Velesky.
“It’s not going to feel very good for the short term but it’s good experience,” said Brittain. “I think we have the chance to continue to be good next year. We’ve got some holes to fill but playoff experience and playoff at-bats is always huge.”