Copperas Cove’s big hitters could soon be playing on the big stage.
After helping turn around the Bulldawgs’ program last season, juniors Tim Bechtold and Michael Hays have their eyes set on something larger than school pride. The pair is hoping to represent their country by earning a spot on Team USA.
For Bechtold, merely entertaining the thought of making the squad is overwhelming.
“It would be an honor to be selected for the national team,” the centerfielder said. “The kids that I’ve seen play for the national team are just unbelievably good.”
The Copperas Cove standouts will have the opportunity to prove they belong among the country’s elite at next week’s National Team Identification Series held in Cary, N.C.
Bechtold and Hays are members of the North Texas region — one of 60 regions represented at the four-day event beginning Aug. 21. Each will play in a series of games in front of scouts, who will then whittle down the field to a select handful for the national team roster.
Bulldawgs head coach Dusty Brittain believes both of his players deserve this chance.
“Those guys live and breath baseball,” he said. “They are both very talented, obviously, and they are both very athletic. They are naturals as far as baseball goes, but they outwork people.
“They don’t just practice when it is in season or when it is convenient. They practice all year around, and to me, that makes them special.”
Third baseman Hays will be competing to play on the 16U team after being named an all-district first-team selection as a sophomore, finishing the season with 19 hits, including two home runs, 19 RBIs and 15 runs scored.
Bechtold is playing in the 17U division after leading Copperas Cove in hits (29), runs (26) and doubles (8) last season, earning a spot on the Killeen Daily Herald’s All-Area First-Team.
The pair was selected for the NTIS, following their performances at the World Wood Bat Association’s Perfect Game tournament in July at Atlanta. In addition to being Copperas Cove teammates, both play for a select team out of Austin called the Action Baseball Club.
Considering their history together, Bechtold is excited to share this experience with his friend.
“It gives me someone to talk to while I’m there, and we get to represent Copperas Cove,” he said.
“It is great that I got selected,” he said, “but for Tim to get selected as well really shows how hard Copperas Cove is working at baseball.”
After struggling in recent years, Copperas Cove turned its fortunes around during Brittain’s first season, producing a 13-11-1 overall record and narrowly missing the playoffs following a 5-23 campaign in 2012.
With the duo anchoring the Bulldawgs’ lineup for the next two years and potentially sporting the stars and stripes in the process, Hays believes the perception of Copperas Cove is changing.
“For me and Tim to be the first two kids that I know of from Copperas Cove to wear USA on their chest, it really shows that Copperas Cove is coming up in baseball,” he said. “This is mainly a football school, but in the next few years, baseball is going to work its way up to the top.”