COPPERAS COVE — Kaegan Jimenez couldn’t have asked for a better pitch.
In the first at bat of the game, the Temple third baseman delivered a solo home run over the left-field fence, foreshadowing things to come as the Tem-Cats exploded for 14 hits en route to beating Copperas Cove 13-3 in six innings Tuesday.
After the game, Jimenez admitted the Lady Bulldawgs played right into her hands during her leadoff at bat.
“The third pitch she threw low and inside,” Jimenez said, “and, honestly, that is my favorite pitch ever, so I swung and hit it over. It felt amazing.”
She was not done yet, though.
Jimenez was a single shy of hitting for a cycle, going 3 for 4 with a triple and a double, four RBIs and three runs before the game ended two at bats before Jimenez returned to the plate.
“Whenever it is going to happen, it is going to happen,” Jimenez said, “and I guess tonight just wasn’t it.”
Teammate Taylor Valentin can sympathize after ending the game needing a triple to hit for a cycle herself. Valentin was 3 for 4, sparking an eight-run fourth inning with a two-run home run. The Tem-Cats (20-11, 10-3) posted nine hits in the inning as all but one player in the lineup scored.
“Just putting the ball in play is key in any game,” Temple head coach Julie Goodman said. “Just make the defense work to get you out, and we’ll work to get the runs.”
Despite the run-rule loss, it was not a bad night for the Lady Bulldawgs, who, thanks to Waco Midway’s 14-0 win over Harker Heights, clinched the program’s first playoff berth since 2008.
“The girls really bought into my program,” Copperas Cove first-year head coach Shelly Hayes said. “We changed a lot of things. We changed our hitting strategy and everything, so the girls did a real good job of adapting. ... But getting into the playoffs and them getting a taste of that is only going to help in the future.”
Following Jimenez’s first-inning home run, the Lady Bulldawgs (17-15, 7-6) scored two runs on three hits, including Tayler Hammack’s RBI double, in the bottom of the second inning to take their first lead of the game.
It did not last long. The Tem-Cats loaded the bases before methodically moving runners across home plate. After Valentin’s home run put Temple ahead 3-2, six consecutive batters scored. Copperas Cove third baseman Destiny Henderson scored off Irene Espinoza’s double to make the score 9-3 heading into the fifth inning, but the Tem-Cats posted two runs in each of the final two innings to produce the final score.
Temple pitcher Lexi Smith earned the complete-game victory, striking out nine batters and allowing only one hit after the second inning.
“I kind of got a little bit unfocused (early),” Smith said. “I’m not use to that, so I had to bring it back in and regain my mental composure.”