WACO — Ideally, as a senior athlete, you want to finish your high school career in style.
The best way, of course, is to end it with a victory in the postseason.
But when you’re a Texas high school softball player and your team has made the playoffs, the only way you can finish off your career with a victory is if you win the state championship.
Still, there’s another way to end your high school career: With your head held high after doing everything you can to help your club win.
The five seniors on the Copperas Cove Lady Bulldawgs each did something special in their final contest on Saturday, and finished out their careers in grand style.
“Copperas Cove played their butts off today,” said Mansfield Timberview head coach Donya Mooney. “That clearly is a team with great senior leadership. If I was a senior on Copperas Cove, I would be very proud to have finished off my career competing like they did today. Gosh, they gave us a great fight.”
Timberview is the back-to-back District 7-5A champion. The Lady Wolves finished this season 23-6 overall. Cove finished fourth in District 8-5A with an overall record of 17-16.
The Lady Wolves defeated Cove 13-2 on Friday night in Game 1 of this best-of-three series. On Saturday, Timberview won 7-6 in an eight-inning, hard-fought contest; the Lady Wolves will advance onward, while Cove’s season closed.
“We were not ready to let this be our last game,” said senior Cove third baseman Destiny Henderson, who had a stellar contest at the hot corner.
“But the way we played today is something I will never forget. We fought and fought.”
With Cove trailing 1-0 in the top of the second, Henderson came to the plate with a runner on third.
Timberview’s pitcher, Mariah Denson, is the real deal. This kid throws gas.
Denson is just a sophomore but it’s clear she’ll be holding a pen in her hand in about 18 months and inking with some D-I softball program.
But Henderson came through with a smash RBI single off Denson, tied up the contest and Cove’s offense was in business.
“I’m very sad our season is over,” Henderson said. “But I am proud that I was able to help my team there.”
Later that inning, with the score still tied 1-1, senior Elliana Doubleday stepped to the plate with two outs. Denson got ahead 0-1 in the count and then Doubleday blasted a two-RBI single and Cove led 3-1.
“I had to come through for my team there,” Doubleday said. “I was really excited after getting that hit. I’m glad I did my job. We came here to fight and compete.”
Cove still led 3-1 heading into the bottom of the fourth. Timberview’s Chelsea Luddeke cracked a line drive to left-center. It looked like a sure double, perhaps a triple.
But Doubleday, playing center field, motored some 40 feet to her right, made a head-first dive, stretched her glove out as far as humanly possible and made the catch.
It was one spectacular play.
“Once I saw the ball leave the bat, I was just thinking I have got to catch this ball,” Doubleday said. “I gave it 100 percent, dove for it and got it.
“I wanted to make an amazing catch for us. I will never forget that catch.”
And neither will any of the rest of us that saw it.
In the top of the sixth inning, Cove was clinging to a 4-3 lead. The bags were loaded but there were two outs.
Senior Tyler Hammack stepped to the plate. After five pitches, the count was 3-2.
“I was very, very nervous,” Hammack said. “But I wanted to come through for my team.”
Hammack hit a single to left field, drove in two runs and the Cove faithful went bonkers.
“It felt outstanding to come through like that,” Hammack said. “The memories of this game will always be wonderful for me. We fought hard. This was a great way for us to go out.”
Senior Destiny Cox didn’t play in Saturday’s contest. But Cove head coach Bryan Waller said, “Destiny still came through very big for us today.
“Destiny understood her role for us this year. It was to pinch-hit when necessary. But more importantly, she has a heart of gold and she’s the leader in our dugout. She’s in charge of keeping our team fired up all game. When I’m not in that dugout, she’s in charge.
“Well, emotion played a huge part in the way we fought today and it was Destiny leading us on.
“Our bench today never stopped with the energizing cheering. Why? Because Destiny wouldn’t let that positive energy stop.”
“I’m so proud just to have been a part of this team,” Cox said.
“We showed what kind of heart we had today. This is a game that I will always be proud of.”
Up 3-1 in the top of the third, Cove senior Irene Espinoza, a four-year varsity player, sent a rocket out of the ball park, deep over the 200-foot sign in right-center.
“I’ve hit balls farther than that one today,” Espinoza said. “But never that far in a playoff game. I was only trying to get a base hit. But then I saw it hit all those trees over the wall when I was rounding first and everyone was screaming and it was an amazing feeling. I will never forget that home run.
“This game will always be a great memory for me. We played a very good team — and we played a great, great game.”