COPPERAS COVE — Dusty Brittain has a vision for Copperas Cove. On Thursday, he began seeing it materialize.
The Bulldawgs’ new head coach earned his first career victory during the opening day of the Copperas Cove Bulldawg Varsity Baseball Tournament, defeating San Angelo Lake View 12-0 en route to emerging as the pool winner.
For Brittain, who spent four years as an assistant at Gatesville before inheriting his first varsity program, the victory was sweet, but he is more excited about winning over the team with his philosophy.
“I think they are really starting to buy into it,” Brittain said. “I talk about doing the little things 24/7 with them and how those things translate to wins. The biggest part is just learning the game a little bit more and the approach to the game. ... Today, I could see the difference instantly.”
After losing the season opener at Georgetown East View 10-0, Copperas Cove played its home opener against Hays Lehman, kicking off a two-game schedule Thursday afternoon.
Following a six-run third inning, the Bulldawgs held their first lead of the season at 6-3, but it did not last. The Lobos answered with nine runs in the top of the fifth inning, and Copperas Cove never recovered, falling 15-9.
Nevertheless, the Bulldawgs totaled 10 hits in the loss, led by Adrian Oviedo and Jayson Cole, who finished with two hits apiece, including a pair of doubles.
Copperas Cove (1-2) continued to deliver offensively against the Chiefs, recording nine hits before earning the run-rule victory in five innings.
Oviedo produced the win on the mound following a shaky start.
The junior walked the game’s first batter and hit the next two, loading the bases, but he recovered to preserve the shutout.
“It took him a little bit to get loose, but that was huge,” Brittain said. “He got into a groove and just shut them down. That was great for his confidence.”
Competing in Pool A, Copperas Cove and its two opponents each finished with a 1-1 record with the eventual tiebreaker being fewest runs allowed. The Bulldawgs won the tiebreaker, having given up 15 runs during its two games.
Therefore, Copperas Cove claim the pool’s top seed in bracket play and a first-round bye, giving the team a day off before returning to the diamond Saturday at 9 a.m. against either Pflugerville Connally, Trinity Valley or Little River-Academy.
Academy has the lead so far, beating Connally 14-5 in five innings.
The remaining games for Pool B will be played today.
Should the Bulldawgs emerge as tournament champions, they would already be well ahead of last season’s pace.
Copperas Cove went 5-23 in 2013, losing 12 of 14 District 8-5A games in C.J. Wilk’s final season of a three-year stint with the program. In 2012, the Bulldawgs finished 10-18, extending a playoff drought that began in 2008.
Three games into his career, Brittain sees lots of promise in a team experiencing an extended slump, especially after getting its initial taste of success.
“They feel the pressure because they want to succeed,” Brittain said. “They want to succeed for themselves, and they want to succeed for me. So, to get that one under us, they can feel like, ‘Hey, we are pretty good.’ I think that helps them a lot. … They’ve got to learn how to win, and this is a step in the right direction.”
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org