By Angel Verdejo
The Cove Herald
KILLEEN - Jacob Brank didn't start well last Friday.
It's kind of been who he is.
The Ellison starter threw 24 pitches in the top of the first inning, walking two Copperas Cove batters and hitting a third. The Bulldawgs got a runner across and another in scoring position when Brank escaped the jam.
Cove got to him again in the second, with Brank's error leading to one run and the Dawgs scoring two more.
Brank didn't exactly settle in from there, instead steering in and out of trouble. His teammates, though, picked him up. The Eagles turned a pair of double plays, while the offense turned 12 hits and continuous pressure on the bases into an 11-4 win at home.
"It's tough because we've not been hitting the last two games. We knew we had to come out strong and hit the ball," said Ellison's K.J. Stark, as the Eagles picked up their first District 12-5A win after close losses to Bryan and A&M Consolidated last week. "It was now or never. We really needed this one - to hit like that going into the rest of the season helps."
The Eagles needed that offense, because Brank's early struggles resulted in a 4-2 Cove lead after two innings. Ellison answered Cove's first-inning run with two in the bottom half of the inning, but the Dawgs tied it just four pitches into the second.
Brank misfired a throw to first base on a Matt Christiansen bunt, scoring Chris Burroughs and putting runners in scoring position. Warren Neely then cleared them, hitting a 2-0 pitch to the wall in left center.
"Usually it takes me about two innings to get warmed up, but today, I pretty much struggled through the whole game and I'm pretty happy just to get a win," said Brank, who went the distance but walked six and hit three.
"Things in the beginning just didn't work for me. Usually as the game goes on, I get better."
Brank struck out Israel Riley to start the third but walked Tyler Overocker on five pitches. Then the Eagles picked up their starter. Overocker was thrown out at second base and Brank struck out Burroughs for the third out.
Then the Eagle offense took over – getting help from Cove mistakes, specifically on third-and-first base situations.
"I think last time we played them, we had six stolen bases, so this time I told the kids, 'If we can get on, we can run,'" Ellison head coach Kyle Allred said. "So that was something and if you get a lot of first-and-third situations, you got to take advantage of it."
A botched first-and-third play put Ellison up in the first inning, with the second scoring Melvin Pernell and cutting Cove's lead to 4-3.
From that point, every time Ellison had runners at the corners, the Eagle on first took off for second base. And nearly every time, Cove conceded the base.
"If we make routine plays, we'll be OK," Cove coach C.J. Wilk said. "If we don't, we won't."
Ellison scored four runs in the third inning and added one in the fourth before batting around in the fifth. Stark, who had three hits and three RBIs, doubled home Draven Thomas and Jose Hernandez (3-for-5, two runs). Fisher singled home Stark and came around on a Pedro Varela base hit, putting Ellison up six.
Bryan 11, Copperas Cove 2 (Tuesday) - At Copperas Cove, Matt Christiansen and Tyler Overocker each had two hits for the host Bulldawgs, who finished with six but couldn't string enough together against Bryan.
Overocker doubled for Cove (6-12, 0-4 12-5A), while Warren Neely went 1-for-1 with a pair of sacrifice flies.