Everyone knew Daniel Cole was going to be the ace of the Harker Heights pitching staff entering the season.

Cole spearheaded the Knights on the mound last season with a 1.17 ERA and an unblemished 7-0 record.

The real question was who would be the team’s No. 2 hurler.

After graduating Tyler Torres, who pitched in 14 games a year ago and compiled a 9-1 record with a 1.15 ERA before moving on to Texas Rio Grande Valley, a glaring hole on the Harker Heights staff was evident.

Enter Jacob Mitchell.

Mitchell, a senior, was the Knights’ primary first baseman last year and has been a stout bat in their lineup for a long while. But he got plenty of work on the mound in pre-district play a year ago, giving head coach Randy Culp confidence in his future.

Mitchell pitched in eight ballgames and went 4-2 with a 5.97 ERA, but Harker Heights didn’t need to use him much in league play because of the Cole-Torres tandem.

This season, Mitchell has been huge.

The 6-foot-3-inch hurler has pitched in nine games and gone 3-4 overall, but he has alternated starts with Cole in District 8-6A play and gone 3-1 while only giving up more than three runs in one league contest.

For a team needing someone to step up every other night on the rubber and provide quality starts just a season after capturing its first-ever district title, Mitchell has answered the call.

Gone are the concerns of a pitcher filling the big shoes of Torres, and the Knights have reaped the rewards.

After beating Copperas Cove 4-3 on Wednesday to grab a share of the second seed in 8-6A with Waco Midway, Harker Heights finds itself two games behind San Angelo Central atop the league.

The Knights were scheduled to face the Bulldawgs on Thursday to cap off their two-game set, and Harker Heights will get its chance next week to inch closer with two games against the Bobcats.

The entire Knights team deserves credit for how 8-6A play has gone, and it doesn’t hurt to have arms like Cole and Mitchell representing them at the game’s most important position.

Tuesday begins the final four-game stretch run.

Cole is going to be Cole, and it might be safe to assume Mitchell is going to be Mitchell now.

Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Previously spent time as sports editor at both the Hereford Brand and the Gatesville Messenger. Graduate of West Texas A&M University.

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