“A wave of panic passed over the vessel, and these rough and hardy men, who feared no mortal foe, shook with terror at the shadows of their own minds.” — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “Sir Nigel”

Click, click, click, click, click, click, click …

As each of the 14 base-on-balls was administered Tuesday night against Belton, Glenn Cunningham must have felt a twinge of déjà vu.

Because the longtime Harker Heights head baseball coach has been on this ride before — a roller coaster of missed opportunities and wasted potential.

Just two weeks into the new season, the Knights already appear to be off to an up-and-down start.

Competing in the season-opening Waco ISD tournament, Harker Heights (5-5, 0-1 8-5A) couldn’t buy a run and dropped all four of its games by a combined score of 28-9 — to the likes of Cleburn, Ennis and China Spring.

But last weekend in Shoemaker’s three-day Wolf Pack Classic, the renewed Knights rolled up five straight victories before settling to split the tournament championship with the District 8-5A rival Grey Wolves rather than waste pitchers in a non-district competition.

All of a sudden, though, as if they were slowly climbing the arching rails upward toward the sky — clickety-clack, clickety-clack, clickety-clack — it was almost as if the bottom dropped out on the Knights and down they plummeted.

As each walk worked its way around the bases in Tuesday’s 6-1 district-opening home loss to Belton, a usually strong program not nearly as insurmountable as it has been, Cunningham looked like a kid who was about to projectile up the milkshake he chugged before strapping into the ride.

In that loss, the Knights’ bats fell silent again with one hit, this time coming in a record-breaking 17-strikeout performance from newly-minted Belton ace Jared Janczak.

The real issue is Harker Heights’ consistent inconsistency. The last few seasons the Knights put together a few promising wins only to have the floor drop out from under them as they free-fall through several tough-to-stomach losses.

This season, though, thanks to a handful of underclassmen fighting for playing time, Heights may have one of its more talented squads in years — highlighted by freshman Tyler Torres and sophomore Michael Ray Zapata. Throw in a pair of standout juniors seeing their second year of varsity action in five-tool outfielder Damion May and steady shortstop Caleb Dean and there’s a solid foundation of talent and experience to work with.

But after Tuesday night’s debacle, Cunningham better close his eyes and hold on for dear life. Because this roller coaster looks like it’s got a few more peaks and valleys in store.

Contact Alex Byington at alexb@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7566

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