By Angel Verdejo
The Cove Herald
You could hear the relief in Matt Blackburn's voice.
"It's just nice to get a win," Belton's head softball coach said.
His Lady Tigers haven't had much to cheer about recently.
Not only was Monday's 8-1 road win over Copperas Cove the Lady Tigers' first win in District 12-5A play, but it also stopped a slide where Belton lost eight of nine games.
"We've been struggling as of late," said Blackburn, Belton's head coach. "It's been a while."
Belton lost five straight games before beating Pflugerville Hendrickson at the Lady Tigers' Cen-Tex Hit-N-Run Classic a week ago, only to end the tournament with a loss to Magnolia before losing to Temple and A&M Consolidated to start district play.
It's the opposite for the Lady Bulldawgs (13-9, 2-2) as the loss snapped a seven-game win streak that dated back to March 4 at Cove's own tournament and continued with wins last week over Ellison, Shoemaker and Killeen High.
"The three wins we had Wednesday, Thursday, Friday have carried us here because our hitting is there," Cove assistant coach Jay Shaw said. "Even here, our hitting was here (Monday), but we just had some bad breaks with the wind."
Cove finished with five hits but stranded seven runners.
The game didn't start well for Belton, which quickly went down in order in the first inning. From the second inning on, however, the Lady Tigers found their timing against Cove starter Katelynn Stephens, finishing the game with 11 hits.
It wasn't just Belton's hitting, but when the hits came. The Lady Tigers scored five runs with two outs with the other three all coming with one out.
"That's real huge," Blackburn about the two-out runs. "It's something we haven't been doing all year. Once we got our timing, it looked like we were rocking and rolling."
Up 2-0 in the fourth inning, Belton loaded the bases with two outs before a Kassidy Vaughn single scored both Jenna Roach (reached on infield single) and Annie Bridges (hit by pitch). Roach scored the next inning, as she hit the first of four two-out singles, coming around with Kristi Moose on a Bridges single to left field.
Cove got its run in the fourth after stranding runners in each of the previous two innings. Shabanese Brown, who just missed a home run later in the game, singled to lead off the fourth and stole second base. Maricella Chavez then reached on catcher's interference before a Magen Martel single scored Brown to cut Belton's lead to 4-1.
Cove 14, Killeen High 3 (Friday) - The Lady Dawgs picked up a lopsided win over Killeen with seven hits and Shabanese Brown's third home run in two days. Brown hit a three-run shot over the center field wall in a six-run third inning for the Lady Dawgs.
"I think that this last week has been very good for us," said Cove coach Jim Lowery. "We played three games in three days and have a nail-biter on Wednesday to where we had to rely on pitching and defense and then the last two days, just getting up and wearing it out."
Cove scored nine of 10 runs in the second and third innings with two outs after finishing the first inning deadlocked with the Lady Roos 1-1 after the first.
Ashley and Justine Hartwell each had RBIs and Cove scored on a pair of passed balls with two outs in a four-run second and Katie Parris had an RBI single, followed by an Ashley Hartwell walk and a Justine Hartwell fielder's choice to load the bases for Brown. A passed ball scored Parris just before Brown's home run.
Justine Hartwell scored on a passed ball in the first inning, but the Lady Roos (2-10) answered in the bottom of the inning with an RBI sacrifice by Pollethe Ramirez to score Shalanda Hyde.
But the struggles between Killeen High freshman pitcher Olivia Lacewell and sophomore catcher Keeana Fruge started to take their toll in the second. Fruge was making her first varsity start behind the plate in place of the injured Desiree Garcia.
Lacewell bookended a pair of walks around a strikeout after a flyout to start the inning, but two passed balls and a pair of fielding errors scored all but one of Cove's second-inning runs. Justine Hartwell hit an RBI triple to center field and eventually scored on a passed ball to put the Lady Dawgs up 5-1.
Contact Angel Verdejo at email@example.com or (254) 501-7564.