Bryan Waller knew he was inheriting a talented team.
So, since arriving at Copperas Cove, he has focused on improving the Lady Bulldawgs’ focus.
After being hired to replace Shelly Hayes, who returned Copperas Cove to the playoffs for the first time since 2008 in her lone season, Waller quickly turned his attention to improving the Lady Bulldawgs’ mental aspect of the game, and the approach seems to be paying off.
Despite sporting a record that is currently only two games above .500, Copperas Cove is rolling at the right time, winning its first two District 8-5A games by a combined score of 42-1, including a shutout victory against Shoemaker on Tuesday.
Now, the young roster, which might have crumbled under pressure in the past, is learning to maintain its poise, and Waller could not be happier with the situation.
“They understand they are going to have a bad inning every now and then,” he said. “That is the same hiccup that a lot of teams have, but they are pushing themselves and learning that when bad plays happen, we need to put it behind us, move forward and remain confident. We have to maintain a confident attitude.”
While Waller understands there is a learning curve to the process, he is seeing progress.
Lately, however, the Lady Bulldawgs have not had their backs against the wall.
Following a 25-1 victory against Killeen on the road, Copperas Cove (10-8) improved in the standings after defeating the Lady Grey Wolves 17-0 to open their home district schedule.
No Shoemaker batter reached base during the four-inning, run-rule win, and 14 Lady Bulldawgs crossed home plate, including two via inside-the-park home runs.
For Copperas Cove pitcher Carlee Duran, who did not give up a hit against Shoemaker, striking out four batters, the transition in coaching has been surprisingly smooth.
“We are doing real well this year,” she said. “I think we are working together defensively and offensively. We are meshing well and helping each other out better than we were last year.”
The Lady Bulldawgs will receive a stiff test tonight, though, traveling to Waco for a game against Midway.
A perennial power, the Pantherettes have made the playoffs 21 consecutive seasons, winning state championships in both 1998 and 2010. Last year, Midway advanced to the Class 5A regional quarterfinals.
Waller believes tonight will truly determine exactly where his team stands mentally.
“The important thing is how they react when a big game is on the line,” he said. “Against Midway, we are going to see how much is soaking in.”
Although the task will be difficult, Waller believes the formula for success is relatively simple.
“We’ve got to keep our defensive miscues to a minimum,” he said, “and we have to play with reckless abandon and poise, as well. Our pitchers have to be able to do their jobs and hit their spots, and we have to maximize base runners when we get them on base. That’s the key.”