HARKER HEIGHTS — The call came out from behind the dugout.
“It’s over, Ellison won 7-5.”
And with that Harker Heights head coach Glenn Cunningham let out a whistle.
The Knights, who were celebrating a 9-2 win over Copperas Cove with friends and family, stopped what they were doing, put down their bags and mitts and walked to meet their skipper on the infield grass. Harker Heights’ season was not over.
There was still work to do and it needed to be discussed.
The Knights’ win, along with Ellison’s 7-5 win over Shoemaker on Friday, set up a three-way tie for third place in District 8-5A. Today, the three teams play a possible tripleheader to determine not only who makes the playoffs, but also who ultimately finishes in third.
“We are in the playoff run right now,” Cunningham said. “Our kids understand that and they are under the gun and have to perform. We understand what is at stake and we feel good about our chances.”
Harker Heights plays the loser of another Ellison-Shoemaker matchup at 4 p.m. today at Killeen High. If the Knights win, they will play the winner for third place immediately following. If they lose their season is over.
Heights plans on pitching Caleb Dean in Game 1 and freshman Tyler Torres in Game 2, if necessary.
“We have two good starters for tomorrow and we feel confident in those guys,” Cunningham said. To set it all up, though, they had to dispatch of the Bulldawgs on Friday.
And they did that quickly.
Robby Sluss led off Heights (13-13, 7-7) in the first inning with a triple and Torres gave the Knights their first lead with an RBI groundout. Tyler Keller then sent a rocket over the head of Joel Hogan and into the wall in left field to put Heights up 2-0.
“Coach just said to go out there and have fun and don’t think about it or put any pressure on it and that is what we did,” Sluss said. “We just stayed back on the ball and got on it and hit the ball deep.”
The Knights loaded the bases in the second inning without getting the ball out of the infield. Michael Rae Zapata walked, Kyle Randall was hit by a pitch and then Miles Munro laid down a perfect bunt that gave Cove pitcher Charlie Fulger no play on the ball. Folger then plunked Sluss to put the Knights up 4-0 and a wild pitch scored Jomar Velez-Pereira. After walking Cody Plagens, Folger was pulled for Riley Childers.
It didn’t help.
Caleb Dean stroked a single to center field and then Childers hit Torres with the bases still loaded. Zapata then hit a two-run single up the middle that could not quite be handled by Cove second baseman Kyle Winstead. Damion May doubled down the line to drive in the seventh run of the inning and gave the Knights a 9-0 lead.
“Offensively we did some good things early ... and for the most part I was pleased with the effort,” Cunningham said. “Since the last inning against Shoemaker I think we have played with great intensity. ... Baseball is a crazy game and we did some careless mistakes early (this season) and now we have found some consistency.”
Hogan cut into the Heights lead in the fourth with an RBI double. Cove (5-23, 2-12) added a second run on a Harker Heights error.
“We came out focused and that is the thing you try to avoid is that when you jump out like that you tend relax and I think we did,” Cunningham said. “We did not score after that and you have to fight against that.”