Bryce Delano displayed composure on the mound because he needed to and at the plate because he had to.
The senior transfer from Shoemaker delivered a strong all-around performance during Copperas Cove’s 13-3 victory at Killeen on Tuesday, striking out eight batters and only allowing four hits, with each occurring in the first inning.
Despite rebounding on the mound, perhaps Delano’s most impressive display occurred after hitting a grand slam home run to break the game open in the fourth inning.
“It felt good off the bat, but I didn’t show any emotion because last time I got in trouble,” he said in reference to a home run celebration against Hays Lehman. “I felt pretty excited on the inside, though.”
In addition to his home run, Delano recorded a single and finished with five RBIs as the Bulldawgs (8-3-1, 1-0) won their District 8-5A opener after going 10-32 in district during the past three seasons.
Copperas Cove first-year head coach Dusty Brittain hopes this is only the beginning.
“Our work is not done,” he said. “We’ve got to go and compete every single night, and I told the players they can have the rest of the night to be happy about this one, but we’ve got to go back to work tomorrow.”
After jumping out to a 1-0 lead with Delano’s RBI hit scoring teammate Kyle Winstead in the first inning, Killeen answered with three runs. Each of Killeen’s first three batters — Marquis Winston, Rene Ramirez and Garrett Gaskamp — scored.
Then the Kangaroos began to lose focus.
Killeen (3-9-2, 0-1) did not produce another hit in the game as only six players reached base over the duration of the contest.
“Our momentum got taken away,” Kangaroos head coach Donald Trcka said. “Once that momentum is taken away, it is hard to get back. Copperas Cove did a good job of getting the momentum, keeping it the whole game and putting us in a bad spot.”
Trailing 3-1 to start the second inning, the Bulldawgs exploded for four runs with the last coming off an RBI triple by senior left fielder Jayson Cole which scored Tim Bechtold.
The score held until the fourth inning, when designated hitter Derris Prater scored on a walk with the bases loaded to put the Bulldawgs ahead 6-3.
Moments later, Delano stepped to the plate and cleared the remaining runners with a shot over the left-field wall.
“This was my first grand slam,” he said. “There was a new pitcher on the mound and he was throwing hard, so I scooted back in the box a little bit, waited on my pitch, and when it came, I hit it and it flew a little bit.”
On the mound, Delano was equally dominating, striking out six of the 10 batters he faced during the second, third and fourth innings.
The Kangaroos’ best chance to cut into the Bulldawgs lead came in the bottom of the fifth inning with the bases loaded, but Delano delivered a strikeout to end the inning.
“In the first inning, I came out a little rusty and couldn’t really find my groove,” he said. “But I found my rhythm and was able to move forward from that.”
Along with Delano, Michael Hays finished with a pair of hits for Copperas Cove, and Winstead scored three runs.
The Bulldawgs ended the evening with seven hits, but Brittain was more impressed with the seven times his players were hit by a pitch.
“Standing in there, getting hit by a pitch and not getting out of the way was big,” he said. “I challenge my guys to do that. It is one of the little things we always talk about that is going to help us win games, and I thought it made a big difference by letting us get base runners that way.”