Knights’ win thriller pitchers’ duel 1-0 on a bases-loaded walk
By TJ MAXWELL
Hits were few and far between on Thursday night as two of the top pitchers in District 8-6A faced off when Copperas Cove junior lefty Jaylen Smith took on Harker Heights’ senior ace Daniel Cole at Bulldawg Field.
The two teams combined for just four hits through six innings of action but it would be walks that would determine the outcome.
A leadoff single by Heights’ Matt Smith in the bottom of the seventh turned out to be the only hit the Knights need and three-straight free bases, including an intentional walk to Cole who homered to down Cove 4-3 on Wednesday, sealed the deal.
“Jaylen pitched well and we played pretty good defense behind him,” said Copperas Cove head coach Dusty Brittain. “I hate they didn’t really have to earn it in the end but that’s the way it goes. You live to fight another day.”
Despite Cole’s dominance on the mound, the Bulldawgs managed put runners on the pads in nearly every inning and had scoring opportunities on multiple occasions but just couldn’t come through with that timely hit.
“I thought we had a pretty good plan,” said Brittain. “We saw a lot of pitches and against (Cole) you’re not just going to kill the ball but I felt like we got runners on pretty consistently and that’s what you’ve got to do.
“You’ve got to get them on then give yourselves some opportunities. We got some bunts down and got guys in scoring position a few times but we just couldn’t come through with that big hit.”
With both aces dangerously close to their pitch limit of 110 pitches, every pitch counted.
A leadoff single by Michael Goudeau, a sacrifice bunt by Colby Jost and an intentional walk to Cameron Johnson in the bottom of the sixth inning put two runners in scoring position with one out for Cove. However, Cole threw a strikeout and induced a groundout to end the threat.
After the single by Smith and the intentional walk to Cole to begin the seventh inning, Heights’ Jackson Rinehart drew a walk to load the bases and senior Jacob Mitchell drew what turned out to be the game-winning walk.
Josh Ropple, on in relief for Smith, induced a fly out to centerfield to end the Knights’ threat.
The Bulldawgs had one more opportunity for the come back in the bottom of the seventh but a groundout and strikeout by Cole got the Knights’ one out away and relief pitcher Tre Martin forced another groundout after Cole also reached his pitch limit with just one out remaining.
Despite the two-straight one-run losses, Brittain likes the fight he’s seen from his squad.
“I told the kids, if it doesn’t hurt a little bit then it probably doesn’t matter to you. It should hurt a little bit but I feel like, even with a couple one-run losses, I feel like we’re coming out a little bit.
“We struggled a little bit for a couple weeks in a row and now we are starting to put together some rallies. We didn’t score tonight but we put together some great at bats. When you put together good at bats and good plans, we’re going to find holes. We just have to keep grinding.”
Colby Jost was 1 for 1 with a pair of sacrifice bunts and Michael Goudeau was one for 2 and was hit by a pitch to reach to lead the Bulldawg bats. Nick Izquierdo, Cedric Camaco and Johnson reached base on walks and Peyton Fox reached on a fielder’s choice to account for the Cove base runners.
Cole (1 for 2 with two intentional walks), Rinehart (1 for 2, BB), Smith (1 for 3, R) and Mitchell (0 for 2, with a RBI walk and an intentional walk) led the Knights.
Cole picked up the win from the mound. He allowed to runs on two hits while striking out 11 and allowing four free bases in 6 2/3 innings. Tre Martin picked up the save for the Knights.
Smith suffered the loss for the Bulldawgs. He surrendered one earned run on three hits while striking out six and walking seven (three intentional walks).
The Bulldawgs (11-12, 4-6 in District 8-6A) currently sit in sixth place in a race for four playoff spots behind San Angelo Central (8-2), Waco Midway (7-3), Harker Heights (7-3), Ellison (5-5) and Belton (5-5). The Bulldawgs finish the regular season with a two-game series against Killeen (3-7) starting Tuesday and the season-ending series against Belton beginning April 25. Belton and Ellison face each other in a two-game series this week before Belton finishes at Cove and the Eagles finish with a two-game series against Midway.
“We just have to regroup,” said Brittain. “I told them, ‘if you think we’re out of this by any means, you’re mistaken.’ We have a big week ahead of us and there are some other series looming that are big in our district.
“We just have to go do what we’re supposed to do and give ourselves the best chance heading into that last series.”