Over the past several years, district wins have eluded Copperas Cove’s baseball program.
Dusty Brittain intends to end the trend.
The former Gatesville assistant coach was recently hired as the Bulldawgs new head coach, replacing C.J. Wilk, who stepped down for personal reasons in late April following a three-year tenure. During the span, Cove went 10-32 in district play, including a pair of 2-12 showings, and never made the playoffs.
Embarking on the first head-coaching job of his career, Brittain is focused on changing the program’s culture, beginning with its approach to district competition.
“Obviously, with the way this team has looked in the years past, it hasn’t done well (in district),” Brittain said. “My job next year is to go and win those games that matter. It really doesn’t matter what you do up until district, winning those games is what makes a difference in your season, and that is what they haven’t done.”
Copperas Cove went 5-23 overall last season and finished the year on a seven-game losing streak after winning back-to-back District 8-5A games against Temple and Harker Heights.
The Bulldawgs responded to a season-opening loss with three consecutive victories, but lost 15 in a row over the next month. The Bulldawgs graduated eight seniors from their roster, including pitcher/first baseman Brandon Smith, an all-district honorable mention. The only other Cove player to receive all-district recognition was outfielder Tim Bechtold, a second-teamer who will be a sophomore next season.
While Brittain sees advantages to inheriting a young, unproven team, he knows thriving in a talented district will be difficult.
“They won two games last year, and to be frank, three games is not going to cut it,” Brittain said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to get to that point, but the ultimate goal is to make that postseason tournament.”
A 1998 graduate from Gatesville, Brittain pitched collegiately at McMurry University and graduated from Tarleton State. His entire coaching career has been spent at Gatesville, where he’s served as an assistant under head coach Graig Keeton the last four years.
“(He) came very highly recommended,” Copperas Cove athletic director Jack Welch said. “We know he’s a great people person and a fine coach who believes strongly in teaching fundamentals. We’re very glad to have him join us.”
Not only does Brittain believe strongly in perfecting baseball’s basics, he is also dedicated to discipline, admitting there will be significant philosophical changes.
“Playing against Belton and Midway and the other teams in our district that are very good, you’d better be very good at the small things,” Brittain said. “That is something I’m going to strive for and we are going to be good at. ... That is something these guys have been lacking over the last couple of years.
“They’ve just needed one or two things to push them over the top and become a winning program, and I’m hoping that is where we are going.”