Bulldawgs inch closer to playoffs with 8-1 win over Belton
By TJ MAXWELL
The Copperas Cove Bulldawgs’ baseball team put together one of their best outings of the year in an 8-1 win over Belton in their final home game of the regular season Thursday night at Bulldawg Field.
“We knew if we could get this win then we had a pretty good shot at finishing third,” said Copperas Cove head baseball coach Bob Macy.
“Tuesday night we hit the ball really well. We’ve had a good week of practice and focus. Even though last week we dropped one to Midway, we had a chance. I told the kids it was my fault because we had a chance to squeeze and I didn’t do it. It was tied up and I was letting them swing and we just didn’t get it done. Since then, they’ve really been focused with the hitting and they’ve turned it around.”
Senior hurler Josh Ropple kept the powerful Belton bats at bay while the Bulldawgs racked up nine hits, including junior Cam Petet’s 3 for 3 night.
“It is a big confidence booster,” Petet said about the win. “It helps us get ready for the playoffs and stay focused to try to take out one of the big dogs in Dallas.
“Over there (at Belton) I went 2 for 3 and here I went 3 for 3 so I guess I just have his number,” said Petet.
The Tigers threatened early after a walk, a hit batsman and an error juiced the bases, but Cooper Babcock grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the threat.
The Dawgs then took their first lead of the contest in the bottom half of the inning.
A one-out double by senior Michael Goudeau put a runner in scoring position and senior Colby Jost reached on an error, allowing Goudeau to score.
The Tigers took the run back in their next at bat when Zach Alexander singled to left field, scoring Logan Riggins after he doubled to reach to lead off the inning.
Neither team could take advantage over the next two innings until the Bulldawgs added three more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.
After senior Nick Izquierdo hit into a fielder’s choice, a double by Petet knocked him around the base paths before he advanced home on a dropped third strike and the ensuing throw to first base.
Petet then advanced home from third base on a passed ball for the 3-1 Cove lead.
A walk by senior Justin Velesky and a single by sophomore Rusty Cochran again put runners in scoring position and freshman Travis Sanders took advantage with an RBI single to centerfield.
After Ropple’s fifth strikeout of the game in the top of the fifth inning, the Bulldawgs’ offense added two more runs in the bottom half of the inning.
A walk by Goudeau put a runner on for Cove before another Belton error allowed Jost to reach and Goudeau to score for the 5-1 score.
An RBI ground out by Izquierdo then scored Jost after he advanced to third on the same error that allowed Goudeau to score. For a 6-1 Cove advantage heading into the top of the sixth.
A lead-off single by Babcock put a runner on for Belton in the top of the sixth but three-consecutive strikeouts by Ropple ended the threat.
“I just wanted to stay consistent,” said Ropple. “I didn’t want any free passes. I wanted to keep my head in the game, but I also wanted to stay loose. If you start to tense up it will start taking its toll.”
The Bulldawgs put an exclamation point on their win with two more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Singles by Cochran and Goudeau sandwiched a walk by Sanders to load the bases for the Bulldawgs. Jost grounded into a fielder’s choice where courtesy runner Mathew Santiago was called out on the force at home plate.
The fourth error of the night by Belton then allowed Ropple to reach and Sanders to score before Goudeau stole home for the final run of the night in the 8-1 win.
“It’s a big momentum builder,” said Ropple. “That’s exactly what baseball is, and it can carry over into other games. There’s no reason why we should not take third.
“We just need to hit the ball and make plays.”
Goudeau added 2 for 3 hitting for three runs and a walk and Cochran was 2 for 3 to join Petet with multiple hits. Sanders (1 for 2, R, RBI, BB) and Ropple (1 for 4) accounted for the rest of Cove’s nine hits.
“It feels great providing for the team,” said Petet. “We know Josh is only going to give up a few runs so if scrap our way to three or four runs, then we should be good.”
Alexander (1 for 2, RBI), Preston Rozner (1 for 2, BB), Riggins (1 for 3, R) and Babcock (1 for 3) accounted for Belton’s four hits.
Ropple picked up the win on the mound. He allowed just one earned run on four hits while striking out 10 and walking one in six innings of action. Cochran allowed no runs and no hits while striking out one and walking one in one inning of relief.
Dyland Blomquist suffered the loss for the Tigers. He allowed six runs (three earned) on seven hits while striking out five and walking two in 4 2/3 innings of action. Jace Stephen allowed two runs (none earned) on two hits while striking out one and walking one.
The Bulldawgs (9-5 in District 12-6A) are currently in the fourth and final qualifying spot for the 2019 UIL playoffs with two games remaining. Cove finishes the regular season with a road game at Killeen (3-11) tonight before heading to Shoemaker (0-15) to close out the regular season on Friday.
“We’re not overlooking anybody,” said Macy. “We’re going back to the same thing we’ve always done…prepare, focus and we’re not taking anybody lightly.”
Cove is trailing Ellison (10-4) in the standings but the Eagles finish off the regular season at Waco Midway (13-1) and at Belton (12-2) to close the season. The Bulldawgs lead the Temple Wildcats (7-7), who finish off the season at home against Harker Heights (6-8) and on the road at Midway.