COPPERAS COVE — The outcome was not what she wanted, but Autumn Hughes walked away happy.
Despite being shut out by Temple at home and falling to .500 in District 8-5A play, Copperas Cove’s first baseman believes the Lady Bulldawgs’ performance was far from disappointing.
“I feel like this was the best game we’ve played,” Hughes said. “I’m proud, but we fell off at the end. We made some good plays in the infield and did a good job getting our outs, so I thought we did pretty good.”
In the end, however, Copperas Cove emerged with only a moral victory.
After the squads went scoreless through the first five innings, the Tem-Cats’ bats came alive in the final two innings as they recorded three of their four hits while posting all of their runs en route to a 3-0 victory.
Like Hughes, Lady Bulldawgs first-year head coach Bryan Waller felt his team’s showing was something to build on.
“In our opinion, as a coaching staff, we feel this was their best effort as a group,” he said. “Offensively, we took good cuts, but we just didn’t make contact enough times. We just didn’t put the ball in play enough to make Temple make plays.”
Part of the reason Copperas Cove (11-11, 3-3) struggled at the plate was due to Temple senior pitcher Lexi Smith.
Winner of two consecutive district MVP awards, including last season when she struck out 300 batters and pitched three perfect games, Smith was on point once again, striking out 14 Lady Bulldawgs in the complete-game victory. Additionally, she reached base in each of her four at-bats and was responsible for scoring two runs.
For much of the game, she was involved in a pitching battle against Copperas Cove junior Carlee Duran.
Duran opened the contest by walking Smith but responded by delivering three strikeouts before stretching the streak to five in a row through the second inning.
By the end of the night, Duran posted seven strikeouts.
After Smith was walked to start the top of the sixth inning, three batters later, Temple catcher Kimberlyn Longbotham’s hit sent her home for the game’s first run. Moments later, Longbotham crossed the plate on a passed ball, increasing the Tem-Cats’ cushion to 2-0.
In the seventh inning, Temple (8-13, 4-2) extended its lead thanks to an RBI single by Taylor Ward.
Although their defense was producing, the Lady Bulldawgs simply could not get runners on base. No Copperas Cove player reached second base as the team finished with just four hits.
Senior right fielder Tayler Hammack recorded the Lady Bulldawgs’ first hit in the third inning before Destiny Henderson, Elliana Doubleday and Hughes posted singles in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, respectively.
Sitting in fourth place in the district standings, Copperas Cove holds a one-game advantage over Harker Heights after the Lady Knights lost to Midway 10-0 on Tuesday, setting up an important game for both teams when they meet Friday.
While the contest could prove pivotal, the gameplan is simple, according to Hughes.
“We just have to hit,” she said, “and we have to make plays in the field.”