HARKER HEIGHTS — Seventeen days, three hours and 15 minutes, but who’s counting? The Harker Heights Knights baseball team had Tuesday’s date circled.
Harker Heights and Shoemaker were scheduled to play for the Wolf Pack Classic tournament championship on March 2, but because the two teams opened their District 8-5A scheduled the following Tuesday, the two coaches agreed to split the title without actually playing it.
“We knew it was going to be this one that decided the game, so we were ready,” Knights pitcher Kyle Randal said. “We thought we did great in that tournament and we wanted the first-place trophy, so we just wanted to come out and prove it tonight.”
Randal pitched a one-hit shutout and the Knights beat Shoemaker 4-0 in the delayed championship game that was itself delayed Tuesday night at Harker Heights.
The Knights scored all four runs on two hits and an error in the bottom of the first inning and Randal had pitched three hitless innings before lightening delayed the game for 57 minutes as Harker Heights (9-7, 3-1 8-5A) was coming up to bat in the bottom of the third inning.
“We took the delay and we all stayed focused in the locker room, we all knew we had to come back out here with the same intensity as when we started,” Randal said. “I just made sure I stayed loose during the delay, I kept my mind right. When we got back out here, I warmed back up, felt great again and just came back out just like I did before the delay.”
Randal struck out eight, including five straight between the fifth and sixth innings after giving up his lone hit, and walked just two.
Shoemaker (9-8, 1-3), which lost its second straight game, put a baserunner on in four of the seven innings, but either left them stranded or they were thrown out.
“Against Killeen, we had nine hits, but they were sporadic and we couldn’t get nothing going then,” Shoemaker coach Harry Zambrana said of the Grey Wolves’ 6-5 loss at Killeen on Friday. “And today, Randal pitched a good game for them, kept us off-balance — we only mustered one hit. We’re having our hitting woes right now that we didn’t have in the preseason. It’s probably the worst time to have those problems, but we’re having them.”
The Knights took a 2-0 lead in the first inning when Tyler Keller hit a grounder beneath the glove of Shoemaker third baseman Roberto Delgado with the bases loaded. Tyler Keller’s two-out single plated two more when the Knights loaded the bases again in the inning.
After giving up a lead-off double to Cody Plagans, Shoemaker pitcher John Gueits walked Michael Zapata and hit Robbie Sluss to load the bases with no outs. He induced consecutive flyouts after the Knights plated their first two runs, but he walked Damian May to load the bases again for Keller.
“We have a lack of focus for that one inning and before we know it, we gave up four (runs),” Zambrana said. “It’s more mental mistakes than anything else. John showed he had control the rest of the night, but for some reason, that first inning, he couldn’t throw strikes when we needed him to and we didn’t play behind him when he needed us to.”
After that inning, Guiets gave up just two hits, struck out six, walked two and hit one. The Grey Wolves finished with three errors and the Knights had one to go along with its four hits.
“We were excited and our kids played and with the weather and everything, our focus was on the weather, trying to get the innings in and then we had the long layoff,” Harker Heights coach Glenn Cunningham said. “We’ve got to take advantage of situations when people give us opportunities ... and it’s a good thing we did tonight, because John (Gueits) was tough the rest of the night.”