Sluggers continue dominant ways, punch return ticket to state
By TJ MAXWELL
The Copperas Cove Sluggers kept their undefeated season intact as they rolled over the competition at the Texas Teenage Association Softball 12-and-under District 3 tournament to punch their second-straight ticket to the state tournament with a 15-0 run-rule win over the Rogers Hot Shots Thursday night in Harker Heights.
This core group of players have been together for quite some time and head coach Giovanni Emeana feels like this team has unlimited potential.
“We watched them grow over time and mature,” he said. “Most of them started off with a little bit of upside to begin with but over time, we’ve seen them develop. A lot of them have gotten faster and stronger and they are honing those skills they need to play the different positions. We can move them around to play different positions and it’s been beneficial to us.”
Pitchers Lulu Robison and Hannah Perry combined for a no-hitter in the shutout and also contributed to the 15-run offensive output.
“We have a saying we use, ‘We need all the easy plays and a majority of the hard plays,’” said Emeana. “That’s pretty much the recipe - at least on defense. On offense they hit the ball the way they are supposed to.”
The Hots Shots threatened in the top of the first inning when Brooklyn McCall reached on an error but a line out to Kyleigh Mott at second ended the threat.
The Sluggers quickly broke the scoreless tie with a 10-run bottom half of the inning.
A two-RBI double by Robison scored Tatum Salinas and Jo Jo Hair, who each drew walks to reach, for a 2-0 lead. Robison added a run when she advanced home on a wild pitch for the 3-0 score.
Perry then contributed an RBI with a single down the third-base line after Gabby Emeana walked to reach and stole second to get in scoring position.
A walk by Mott and a single by Trinity Zavala then loaded the bases and Kali Hunter took advantage with a bases-loaded walk for the 5-0 score before a three-RBI triple by hair pushed the lead to eight, 8-0.
Salinas then drew a walk to put another baserunner on before an error off the bat of Robison added another runner for Perry who connected on a two-RBI single before getting caught stealing second to end the inning 10-0.
After a groundout and two strikeouts induced by Robison, the Sluggers added three more runs in the bottom half of the second inning.
A walk by Cove’s Eva Garza and a single by Delilah Bobo put two more runners on where they eventually scored on a wild pitch and sacrifice fly, respectively. A fly out to right field by Hunter made it a 12-0 contest.
The final run came on a bases-loaded walk by Emeana that scored Hair after she walked to reach before advancing to second on a walk by Salinas and third on a stolen base.
Another three up, three down inning for the Cove pitchers with Perry in the circle in the top of the third led to the final two Cove runs in the bottom of the inning.
Garza and Mott were hit by pitches to reach and Bobo drew a walk to load the bases before an RBI walk by Hunter made it 14-0 and Hair getting hit by the pitch scored the final run for the 15-0 total.
The Sluggers opened up the tournament with a convincing 10-2 win over the Rogers Aftershock on Monday before dispatching the Hot Shots 7-1 to earn a shot in Wednesday night’s semifinals where they took care of business with a 15-0 win over Bertram Pride to earn a spot in the title game.
Keeping the team focused when they’re dominating the competition is always tough but Emeana thinks this group is ready for the next step.
“We believe in keeping them honest and humble,” he said. “It helps that a lot of them play travel ball so they’re no strangers to losing and that helps. Outside of that, it’s just in the preparation. We prepare them in a manner they understand if they don’t go out and execute, they could lose.”
Emeana is excited about that next step.
“We couldn’t be prouder of this group,” he said. “This is probably one of the most polished groups we’ve had going to state, so we are really looking forward to seeing what they can do at the state tournament.”