COPPERAS COVE — As soon as she made contact, Irene Espinoza lowered her head and charged down the first-base line.
The Copperas Cove junior shortstop didn’t look up until she reached first and her coach was reaching toward her to give her a high five. She had hit a walk-off home run in an 11-1 run-rule, five-inning victory Tuesday over the Burnet Lady Bulldogs.
“Coach told me I hit it out — that was when I found out,” Espinoza said. “The pitcher put the ball down and in and I turned on it.”
Lady Dawgs head coach Shelly Hayes was ready for that.
“I saw the ball stay down and knew that it was Irene’s pitch and she finally turned on it and hit it,” Hayes said.
The home run was impressive enough, but Ashley Hartwell blew away the competition on the mound for Cove (8-8).
The senior pitcher strolled to the mound on some kind of hot streak.
Hartwell had only allowed two hits in her previous 14 innings pitched — she kept it going against Burnet.
“Ashley was locating her pitches really well,” Hayes said. “She’s got confidence right now, and when we score runs like we did tonight, it makes it easier for her to pitch.”
Hartwell only allowed three hits in five innings — all singles — and added six strikeouts while only walking two. She also scored two runs and had a two-RBI single in the first inning.
The Lady Bulldogs’ lone run came off an error after Ashley Glover reached base on a single.
“Whenever I’m in the game I’m focused, so I never let things bother me,” Hartwell said. “I felt good running the bases and my teammates got hits.”
Hartwell caught three batters looking on third strikes to end innings and she induced six groundball outs during the game.
“She kept us off balance the whole game,” Lady Bulldogs coach Alfonso Chavez said. “She mixed her pitches well — she was impressive.”
The Cove bats used a balanced attack to score at least one run off Lady Bulldogs’ freshman pitcher Jill Rosow in every inning, and twice scored three runs. Six different Lady Dawgs had an RBI and eight scored a run.
“Great hitting display, we’ve been concentrating on batting — tracking drills and such to get the girls to see the ball better,” Hayes said. “It’s nice to see that translate and us using the sticks a little more.”