Two pitches into his outing Tuesday, Harker Heights’ Daniel Cole found himself facing a one-run deficit.
Two pitches. Two batters. Two doubles.
And one run allowed.
The next Killeen baserunner, however, didn’t reach until the seventh and final inning.
Cole retired 19 straight batters to help Heights rebound from a disappointing loss to Belton with a 5-1 victory against the Kangaroos on Tuesday at Killeen High School.
“We’ve been working hard,” Cole said, “and we wanted to come out and start with this win, take it one by one.”
Killeen brought the tying run to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the seventh, but Heights (14-7, 5-4 8-5A) denied Killeen when it tried to score on a wild pitch, and Cole promptly retired the next batter to end the game.
Killeen, meanwhile, remains winless in league play.
“Our kids fought,” Roos head coach Donald Trcka said. “They’re going to continue to fight all year. We’re going to continue to get better and just keep fighting.”
All but one of the Roos’ hits against Heights came in the bottom of the first when Jaquell Johnson led off with a double followed by Marquis Winston ripping a first-pitch double of his own to drive Johnson in.
“We’ve been working hard on hitting for the past month,” Trcka said. “For them two to come out like that; they came out swinging the bat.”
Cole then began a dominant stretch, retiring 19 straight and striking out 10 in the process.
“First two, he got the ball up a little bit and they rattled him a little bit,” Heights head coach Glenn Cunningham said. “But he settled down and threw good baseball after that.”
Early on, Killeen pitcher Doug Bell did a good job of keeping the Heights hitters off-balance.
But Heights eventually broke through, taking the lead for good on a two-run single by Michael Rae Zapata in the top of the third.
After a Landon Persick RBI single in the sixth, Zapata was at it again in the top of the seventh, when he followed an RBI single by Cole with an RBI double to left for a 5-1 lead.
Zapata finished the game 3 for 3 with three RBIs and a double.
After Heights was shut out against Belton, Zapata said the performance was a nice return to normalcy.
“It feels good,” Zapata said. “It just shows that we’re ready to bounce back, have a good second half of the season.”
And while Cunningham said he hopes to see his team improve at the plate as the season wears on, it was nice to get a victory with the Knights clinging to the fourth-place spot in District 8-5A.
“Right now, we kind of control our own destiny,” Cunningham said. “We’re right there, but you can’t have any hiccups at this point in time.”
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