Lady Dawgs fall in playoff opener; Bulldawgs earn 4th seed
By TJ MAXWELL
It was a disappointing ending to an historic season for head coach Bryan Waller and the Copperas Cove Lady Dawgs as the Mansfield Lake Ridge Lady Eagles outscored them 13-2 to sweep the bi-district best of three series held at Whitney High School over the weekend.
“You can’t take away the season they had,” said Waller. It was a great season overall with a school record in wins, but it wasn’t as successful as it needed to be. We could’ve won this series.”
After earning a second-place seed with the best season in school history with a 26-5 record and 10-2 district record, the Lady Dawgs were unable to keep that momentum going against the Lady Eagles of District 11-6A.
The Lady Dawgs were only outhit 14 to 10 in the two-game series, but the Lady Eagles were able to come up with clutch hits with runners in scoring position while the Lady Dawgs’ hits mostly came with no threatening runners.
The Lady Dawgs also committed a combined seven errors in the two losses while the Lady Eagles put up a stellar defensive performance, including leaping grabs to steal away base hits.
“We can’t make the errors and we have to hit the ball and we didn’t do those two things,” said Waller. “We didn’t play a complete game in either one of them. Hopefully they learn from it and come back determined to fight for it next year.”
In game one, the Lady Eagles connected on a two-RBI double to take a 2-0 lead in the first inning before an in-the-park home run by freshman Meagan Hunt cut the lead in half, 2-1.
Errors allowed two more Lake Ridge scores in the top of the second inning for a 4-1 score.
Cove again cut the lead in half when an RBI double by senior Brooke Schmidt scored junior Emma Wasiak who reached on a two-out walk.
That would be all the scoring for the Lady Dawgs for the rest of the series.
The Lady Eagles added an insurance run in the top of the fourth inning before adding their final two runs in the top of the seventh inning.
Schmidt ( 2 for 3, RBI) and freshman Larisa Perez (2 for 3) led the Lady Dawgs’ bats with Hunt (1 for 4, R, RBI) and freshman Joleeanna “Jo Jo” Hair (1 for 3) rounding out the hitting.
Six different hitters registered one hit for the Lady Eagles, led by sophomore Raigan Brannon (1 for 3, 2RBI) and freshman Cassidy Chance (1 for 3, R, RBI, BB).
In game two, the Lady Eagles took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a single by Chance that scored sophomore Tia Warsop who had a leadoff single to reach.
After strong pitching and defensive efforts by both teams over the next 3 1/2 innings, everything fell apart for the Lady Dawgs as errors helped Lake Ridge added three more runs for a 4-0 ball game.
A triple by Warsop and a bunt by junior Maggie Miller put runners on before a single by Chance scored the first run and throwing errors allowed junior Brooklyn Morris to score.
Two more runs scored in the bottom of the sixth when senior London Willis scored on a inside-the-park home run after the centerfielder Wasiak missed a diving attempt on the ball and it rolled to the wall. Warsop then reached on and advanced to third on the same error before getting knocked home after Chance hit into a double play where Warsop tagged up and scored.
Wasiak was 2 for 3 to lead the Cove bats with Perez (1 for 3) and sophomore Anissa Amaro 1 for 3) rounding out the Cove hits.
Senior Chloe Jones earned the win in the circle for Lake Ridge in game one. She allowed two earned runs on six hits while striking out nine and walking two in seven innings. Senior Veronica Onyun earned the win in game two for the Lady Eagles. She allowed no runs on four hits while striking out four and walking none in seven innings.
Schmidt suffered the loss in both games. She was allowed a combined 13 runs (eight earned) on 13 hits while striking out six and walking three in 13 innings in the circle.
Waller loses just two seniors to graduation from this year’s record-setting team in Schmidt and senior catcher Alina Salazar, so this team should be ready to compete for a playoff spot again next year.
“The legacy that Brooke (Schmidt) and “Li-Li” (Alina Salazar) have left is amazing,” said Waller. “They put four years into this program and the program has gotten better each and every day. Hopefully the girls will feed off that and emulate that and make their footsteps even bigger that what Li-Li and Brooke have done, but it takes work. They have to hit the door running and they can’t take performances like this and be satisfied with them. They’ve got to be hungry and stay hungry. That’s what made Brooke and Li-Li so good – they always stayed hungry.
“I hope they use this as motivation. I hope they’re disappointed in the outcome and how they performed and know that they’re fully capable of doing better.”
Dawgs rally from 4-0 to earn final playoff spot
Things also seemed dire for the Bulldawgs in Saturday’s play-in game between Temple and Copperas Cove that would determine the fourth and final playoff spot for District 12-6A.
After three Cove errors and singles by Aaron Wagaman and Nate Mitchell helped the Wildcats build a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning, the Bulldawgs slowly began to chip away at the Temple lead.
A leadoff single by Jace Johnson, a sac bunt by Blaine Butler and a sac fly by Travis Sanders pushed Johnson across home plate in the bottom of the first.
The Dawgs added two more scores in the bottom of the second when Gabriel Chapman and Antonio Espinoza single to put runners on before an error off the line drive by Dekan Radigan scores Chapman and Espinoza for a 4-3 contest.
After threats by both teams came up short over the next few innings, a double by Sanders resulted in a triple after the throw was behind him. Sanders then scored on a balk from Temple pitcher Bryan Williams for a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the rain-soaked fifth inning.
Another three-baser by Caden Harris put another runner in scoring position for the Bulldawgs in the bottom of the sixth inning before a sac bunt by Espinoza and an error by Williams allowed the go-ahead run by Harris for the 5-4 Cove lead.
Sanders then took the mound where he closed out the contest with a pair of fly outs and a ground out to close the game.
Sanders was 2 for 3 with a run to lead the Cove bats. Harris (1 for 2, R), Espinoza (1 for 2, R), Champan (1 for 3, R), and Johnson (1 for 3, R) rounded out Coves’ six hits.
Cochran picked up the win from the mound. He allowed four runs (one earned) on five hits while striking out one and walking three in five innings of work. Sanders earned the save. He allowed no runs on two hits while striking out three and walking none in two innings.
Johnny Donoso was 2 for 4 with a run to lead the Temple bats while Williams, Wagaman, Mitchell, Matt McDonald and Chance Guillenhad one hit each to round out the Wildcats’ seven hits.
Williams suffered the loss from the mound. He allowed five runs (one earned) on six hits while striking out five and walking one in six innings.
The Bulldawgs will face 11-6A champion Mansfield in the opening round of the playoffs (time and place to be announced).