With the District 8-5A leaders having separated themselves at the top of the league standings, Temple and Harker Heights are staging their own competition to determine who’s the best of everybody else.

It was advantage Knights on Friday night.

Caleb Dean used a dominant curveball to overwhelm the Wildcats with 12 strikeouts and his two-run double in the second inning helped spark Heights to a 9-2 victory at Temple’s Hallford Field.

“He did a great job. He threw his breaking ball very well tonight and we never could get anything going,” Temple head coach Craig Martin said. “It makes it tough.”

The Knights (17-7, 8-4) did more than avenge their 9-0 home loss to Temple on March 25. They also prevented the Wildcats (7-15, 7-5) from clinching a playoff berth, thanks in part to Copperas Cove’s 4-1 win over Ellison.

“They gave us a pretty good spanking at our place,” said Heights head coach Glenn Cunningham, whose team sits alone in third behind Belton and Midway. “Our guys swung the bat better and we got a good pitching performance from Caleb.”

Temple’s only hit was a first-inning single from freshman second baseman Reid Hesse.

Dean (4-2), a senior right-hander, went 5 2/3 innings before Shepherd Mayo finished up.

The Wildcats threatened in the first two innings. Leadoff man Chase Truelove walked and Hesse singled to right field in the first, but Dean got Ricky Ortiz, Chase Stone and Hunter Torrez swinging on curves. Travis Lock was hit to start the second and reached third with one out, but strikeouts of Micah Millican and Keion Seastrunk — again with curves — quelled the threat.

“Usually I have it hanging up, but even my teammates were telling me it looked better tonight,” Dean said. “I just had to figure out where I wanted to put it.”

Heights got to Temple freshman right-hander Dylan Cheek in the second. Michael Zapata’s run-scoring single gave the Knights a 1-0 lead, before Dean drilled a double to the left-center gap for a 3-0 game.

“It felt great to get some runs for my team,” Dean said. “It’s good when you can contribute.”

Wilson Owens’ RBI single put Heights up 4-1 in the fifth, then Tyler Torres’ two-run single keyed the Knights’ four-run sixth.

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