COPPERAS COVE — In his first season as head coach, Dusty Brittain has helped turn around Copperas Cove’s baseball program, eclipsing last year’s win total in the first 12 games of 2014.
With a 13-3 victory at Killeen on Tuesday to open District 8-5A play, the Bulldawgs improved to 8-3-1 after finishing last season with an overall record of 5-23, including a 2-12 district showing.
But the win Tuesday was not as easy as the final score indicated. The Bulldawgs trailed 3-1 following the first inning, then rallied and took complete control on senior Bryce Delano’s grand slam homer in the fourth inning. Delano also earned the pitching victory, striking out nine batters in the process.
Following the win against the Kangaroos, which extended Copperas Cove’s current win streak to five games, Brittain talked with the Herald’s Clay Whittington.
How do you feel the guys played in their district opener?
I thought it was a pretty good first outing. I thought one of the biggest differences was us standing in there and taking seven pitches, getting hit by pitches to get runners on base, and then coming through when we had a chance at the plate with some big hits. Obviously after the first inning, Bryce Delano pitched really well, and if he has outings like that, then we are going to be fine.
What changed after the first inning?
Well, I think Bryce started to settle down a little bit. He walked the first batter on four balls, he fell behind in the count a few times, and Killeen hit the ball. They knocked him around a little bit, but I think he just settled into it and got his off-speed stuff working for him, and that is probably the best his fastball has looked all year. So, hats off to him. He pitched well.
How did you feel the guys played offensively?
I thought we hit the ball well. We took advantage of what they were giving us, but we hit the ball hard all night, and I think standing in there and getting hit by pitches was big. I challenged my guys to do that because it is one of the little things we always talk about that is going to help us win games. I thought it made a big difference by letting us get baserunners that way. I’m very proud of them for that.
Not only did Delano deliver on the mound for you, but also he hit that grand slam to break the game open. How big was that hit?
It was a big, big bomb. They were struggling on the mound, and I just told him, ‘Listen, don’t help him, but if he throws your pitch in there, jump on it.’ And he dang sure jumped on it.
Copperas Cove has struggled, particularly in district, over the past couple of years. How does it feel to be 1-0?
It feels good but, obviously, our work is not done. We feel like we have to go and compete every single night, so I told the guys they could have the rest of the night to be happy about this one, but we’ve got to go back to work tomorrow and get ready for Shoemaker on Friday because that is a big one.
What kind of game are you expecting against the Grey Wolves?
I expect them to be solid on the mound, I expect them to hit the ball well, and we are going to have to play our game. We are going to have to do the little things it takes to win like we always talk about, and we are going to have to have a good performance on the mound. I expect it to be a good ballgame.
Anything you need to clean up before playing Shoemaker?
There is always going to be some things. I like to get with my coaches and talk to them about some things here and there defensively, but I don’t have any major concerns going into it that I’m big on.
Sophomore Tim Bechtold has been consistent for you, and he scored twice against Killeen. What has he been doing right?
He makes us go. At the leadoff spot, he really makes us go. I told him that, and if he will just get on base, then good things will happen. He hits the ball hard, and he is great on the bases, so I feel like when he sparks us, we all just kind of fall in line and get in right behind him. And that is a good thing.
Now that you are in district play, is this about where you expected the team to be?
I think so. I feel like our pitchers are having their better outings going into district, and that has been big. Charlie Folger struggled in the opener against Georgetown, but he has come back and pitched well twice in a row. I feel like that gives him some confidence going into Friday’s game against Shoemaker. Right now, I think we are hitting as well as anybody, so we’ve just got to keep it up against the good quality pitchers we will see over the upcoming games.