Dawgs run-rule Harker Heights 12-2 to move to 2-0 in District 12-6A
By TJ MAXWELL
HARKER HEIGHTS - The Copperas Cove Bulldawgs’ baseball team took a break from their tournament schedule to face off with Harker Heights in their second District 12-6A contest in a weather-delayed showdown held Wednesday night at Harker Heights High School.
Senior pitcher Josh Ropple held the Harker Heights bats at bay, allowing just two runs (one earned) on seven hits and his run support came alive in the final two innings of the Dawgs’ 12-2 six-inning, mercy-rule win over the Knights.
“You can’t ask for a better pitcher,” first-year head coach Bob Macy said of his senior pitcher. “He’s got command of three good pitches and does a great job of working ahead. You can’t ask for more.”
Locked in a 2-2 battle, the Bulldawgs’ bats exploded over the next two innings to pick up their second district win in as many tries.
“I think they were making some adjustments,” said Macy. “The second, third and fourth innings, we weren’t doing what we were supposed to do, but these guys worked their tails off in the off-season and I told this, this is where it is going to pay off. The fifth, sixth and seventh innings, you’ll see a bunch of runs scored. Our guys are not going to be tired late in the game, they’re going to get stronger.”
A single to centerfield by senior Michael Goudeau, a fielder’s choice off the bat of Travis Sanders and a walk by Ropple loaded the bases by Cove in the top of the fifth inning.
Goudeau then advanced home on a passed ball to break the tie before senior Chris Lingo connected on a two-out RBI single for the 4-2 Cove advantage.
Senior Justin Velesky then blasted the game wide open with a three-RBI base-clearing double to the centerfield fence for a 7-2 Bulldawgs’ lead.
“I was coming off two walks,” said Velesky. “I was just trying to put something in play with the bases loaded and that’s what I did. Being the big guy on the team, so to speak, you have to be able to produce. I just walked up with the mentality that I was going to get on base, and it worked out for me.”
Ropple then insured the Dawgs held the lead with three of his five strikeouts on the night in the bottom of the inning.
“I’m feeling good,” Ropple said about his second win in as many tries. “I’m 2-0 and that’s the biggest thing. I’m just ready to go at it next week.”
Senior Colby Jost connected on a lead-off single to centerfield to begin the top of the sixth inning against Heights relief pitcher Brandon Kluna before a walk by Ropple put two on for the Dawgs.
Senior Cam Petet then lined a single to centerfield and Nick Izquierdo hit into the fielder’s choice for an RBI of Jost before Velesky knocked home Petet on an RBI single to shortstop for the 10-2 Cove lead.
Walks by sophomore Rusty Cochran and Goudeau loaded the bases before Heights relief pitcher Jonathan Olson balked to score Velesky and Sanders was hit by a pitch to reach.
Cochran eventually advanced home on a wild pitch give Cove a 12-2 advantage heading into the bottom of the sixth.
Singles by Rinehart Jackson and Riley Bridenstine put runners on for the Knights with two outs but Ropple’s final strike out of the night gave Cove the six-inning victory to 4-5-1 overall and 2-0 in District 12-6A play.
Ropple admits that the run support like he had on Wednesday takes a lot of pressure off.
“It’s big time,” he said. “It’s a huge relief off my shoulders. I get to go out there and pitch with the lead and do what I do.”
Having a solid pitcher on the mound taking care of business and a solid defense helps the bats, too, says Velesky.
“It helps a lot knowing we have a good pitcher on the mound and good defense behind him,” he said.
The Dawgs took a 2-0 lead in to top of the first inning when Goudeau reached on a lead-off walk before two-out singles by Ropple and Izquierdo led to the scores. Ropple knocked home Goudeau before eventually scoring on an error.
Velesky was 2 for 2 with four RBIs, a run and two walks to lead the Dawgs. Goudeau (1 for 1, 2R, 3BB), Cochran (2 for 3, R, BB), Izquierdo (3 for 4, R, RBI), Ropple (1 for 2, RBI), Petet (1 for 3, R, RBI, BB), Lingo (1 for 4, R, RBI) and Jost (1 for 5, R) accounted for the rest of Cove’s 12 hits. Courtesy runners Mathew Santiago and Steele Straley added runs for the Dawgs with two and one, respectively.
Bridenstine led the Knights bats with 2 for 2 hitting while Josh Ratcliff and Spencer Young each went 2 for 3 with a run each.
The Knights cut the Cove lead in half when Young singled to lead off the second inning and was eventually knocked home on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Chan Rinehart for the 2-1 Cove lead.
The Knights knotted the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the fourth when another lead-off single, this one by Ratcliffe. A single by Young then threatened before Cove third baseman Lingo turned a 5-3 double play. Ratcliffe scored on the play.
The Dawgs close out tournament play this weekend at the Bastrop Tournament and coach Macy just wants to get through it unscathed and better.
“We don’t have a lot of depth,” he said. “We have to really be careful on our pitching. Ropple has only thrown one inning on our weekends right now because we have to have him pitch on Tuesday. It does affect us because we do not have every much depth.
“We just need to have consistent play, make good plays on defense, throw strikes and hit fast balls.”