On the eve of the start of the second half of the District 8-5A season, I wrote that Harker Heights, despite two deflating losses in less than a week, had the pieces to slap together an unexpected run in the final half of the season.
The day the piece ran, first-place Belton run-ruled the Knights at Harker Heights, the second time an opponent had done that in two weeks.
But I must have been on the right path because in the aftermath of the Belton loss, Heights head coach Glenn Cunningham told his team the same — specifically that the Knights had as good a chance as any to win out the rest of the regular season.
Now, with one game to play, the Knights are one win away from making Cunningham a prophet.
Since the Belton loss, the Knights have won five straight, and while I’d like to say I had the foresight Cunningham did, Heights surprised me while proving my initial point.
After being shut out by Belton, Heights still had a hard time at the plate in the first two wins after that game, with Cunningham lamenting the lack of hitting after a win against Killeen. Then the top half of the Knights’ order went hitless through seven innings in the next game against Ellison.
But what Heights showed in both games, which has continued, was a propensity for timely hitting.
Michael Rae Zapata had the game-winning hit in both games, and the rest of the Knights have joined him since.
Tyler Torres, who slumped in the first half of district play and was even moved down from his leadoff spot, busted open in a 4-0 win against Shoemaker with an RBI double that was the Knights’ only extra-base hit of the game.
What followed was an impressive win for the Knights, paying back Temple for a 10-0 loss that started its first-half slide. Heights deafeated host Temple 10-2 last week.
Heights followed that game with, by far, its best win of the season Tuesday against Waco Midway — a win that actually brings this story full circle.
It was the Knights’ first loss to Midway — in which Heights led for five innings only to lose despite outhitting the Panthers by eight — that caused my optimal prognosis for Heights heading into the second half of district play.
Then the Belton game happened. And the Killeen game and the Ellison game for that matter.
But Heights kept plugging away.
And on Tuesday, not only did Heights avenge its loss to Midway from earlier in the season but it became just the second team to defeat the Panthers in district play this season.
The only other team to defeat Midway in 8-5A? Belton.
Cunningham has said the entire season that the Knights believe they are a good team. And now it seems, after a fast start to league play followed by a dip, that they are back to playing the way they believe they can.
Cunningham and his staff also deserve credit for staying the course when necessary and making changes — like in the Knights’ hitting order — when that was necessary.
Heights can finish no higher than third with a win against Copperas Cove in the regular season finale tonight.
But at this point, it certainly doesn’t feel like the Knights are the third-best team in 8-5A.