The Bulldawgs desperately needed a victory. Now, they need another one.
After Harker Heights swept the season series last week, Copperas Cove entered Tuesday’s home game against Killeen looking avoid a loss capable of potentially crushing its playoff hopes.
Sitting one game behind a two-team tie at fourth place in the District 8-6A standings, the Bulldawgs had to find a way to win, and they did.
Anchored defensively by junior pitcher Cameron Johnson’s 11-strikeout performance on the mound, Copperas Cove earned a 4-0 victory to put itself in the postseason picture.
Following Tuesday’s action, including Belton’s 7-5 win at Ellison, the Bulldawgs (12-12, 5-6) are now tied with the Eagles for fifth place with three games remaining.
None, however, are more important than tonight’s rematch with the Kangaroos, according to Copperas Cove head coach Dusty Brittain.
“We had some success against Killeen here and there,” he said, “but it wasn’t a perfect game. I think we can go back to work and build off those good things and our positives.
“Our next game is a big one, and it is going to be huge for us moving forward.”
In the series opener, Johnson walked the Kangaroos’ first two batters and committed an error while trying to pick off a runner at first base, prompting Brittain to call for a timeout mere minutes into the game.
The decision paid off.
After escaping the top of the first inning with three runners stranded, the Bulldawgs only gave up two hits and did not allow a Killeen player to reach third base again until the seventh inning.
“Cameron commanded the fastball,” Brittain said, “and when he does that, he is really tough to hit.”
In the bottom of the first inning, Copperas Cove sophomore catcher Michael Goudeau connected on a leadoff bunt to reach and was sent across home plate five batters later, when teammate Josh Ropple was walked with the bases loaded.
The Bulldawgs’ cushion inflated in the fifth inning after first baseman Tyler Ingram’s standup double and an intentional walk to right fielder Jaylen Smith set the stage for Cedric Camacho to produce a momentum-swinging hit. The senior’s shot sent both players across home plate, changing the complexion of the game, according to Goudeau, who was 2 for 2.
“That made a big difference,” he said. “We all just felt more confident after that, and then, going back out on defense, everything is much easier when you’re playing with a lead.”
Goudeau’s sacrifice fly in the sixth inning scored teammate Monquaverus Wingfield for the Bulldawgs’ final run, but the Kangaroos threatened the 4-0 advantage in their final at bats.
Killeen recorded two of its four hits in the game with consecutive singles to begin the top of the seventh inning before, and despite Copperas Cove turning a double play, the Kangaroos managed to load the bases.
Smith caught a fly ball for the final out, though, and now the Bulldawgs will look to build on the momentum by taking the series against Killeen (8-16, 3-8) tonight before facing Belton (11-13, 6-5) in the last two games of the regular season.
For Goudeau, success depends on one factor.
“Our defense is good,” he said. “We are always solid all the way around, so I’m not even worried about that; it’s our offense.
“We need to have some improvement, so the key is going to be having a better approach at the plate.”