Tim Bechtold and Michael Hays are on the brink of making history. In the process, they are changing a culture.

Long known as a football town, Copperas Cove baseball is beginning to claim a share of the spotlight following a turnaround campaign last season under first-year head coach Dusty Brittain.

Having equaled the previous season’s win total in the first week, the Bulldawgs fell just short of making their first postseason appearance since 2008.

The breakout season altered perceptions of the program, and now the Bulldawgs’ standout juniors are justifying the change in opinion.

Both will do something no other Copperas Cove player has when they travel to North Carolina next week to take part in the National Team Identification Series, where scouts will evaluate players from all corners of the country in search of members for the prestigious national team.

Although it is an opportunity for both to prove they belong among the country’s elite, Brittain is equally excited for the trickle down affect it will have on the Bulldawgs.

“Just the fact that those guys put in the extra work and put in the extra hours is going to rub off on current and future players,” he said.

“This is their love. This is their desire, and I think that helps motivate people. I think they’ll see those guys working, and they’ll thrive off it as well.”

Bechtold, a centerfielder, was named to the all-district and Killeen Daily Herald’s All-Area First-Team after leading the Bulldawgs in hits (29), runs (26) and doubles (8). He will be attempting to earn a spot on the 17U national team.

Third baseman Hays will be competing to land on the 16U team after making the all-district first team as a sophomore.

He finished the season with 19 hits, including two home runs, 19 RBIs and 15 runs scored.

Regardless of whether the pair make the national team, Brittain is ecstatic to know they will each return to be a part of his team in the spring.

“I’m going to get them for two more years, and they are not going to do anything but get better, especially playing against elite competition,” he said. “So it is pretty exciting for me as a coach to know my players are playing against some of the best baseball players in the country.”

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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