COPPERAS COVE — Ashley Hartwell told herself that she had to get a strikeout.
The Copperas Cove Lady Bulldawgs’ senior pitcher had bases loaded and no outs in the fifth inning of the District 8-5A softball opener against the Killeen at Lady Dawgs Field on Tuesday night.
There was no outside pressure on Hartwell. The game wasn’t within reach — the Lady Dawgs’ held a 13-1 lead. But still the uber-competitive Hartwell refused to bow — even in a blowout.
“(After we got the bases loaded) I said, ‘I have to strike this girl out,’” said Hartwell. “I would have taken any kind of out though.”
She didn’t need to. Hartwell struck out Lady Roos first baseman Skylar Stewart looking for the all-important first out of the inning — all but wrapping up the Lady Dawgs’ 13-2 victory over the Lady Roos. Though Killeen) scraped a run across to make the score 13-2, Cove run-ruled the Lady Roos in five innings. Hartwell finished with five innings pitched, two earned runs, six strikeouts and three hits allowed.
“We spent so much time during the preseason running tracking drills and improving the players’ eye at the plate,” Cove coach Shelly Hayes said. “What we are seeing is an extension of that. They are confident and playing well.”
The Lady Dawgs’ (11-9, 1-0) bats erupted early with five runs in the first inning. Elliana Doubleday drew a walk and Carlee Duran followed with a single. One pitch later, Hartwell ripped the first of her two two-RBI triples, making the score 2-0 Cove.
In the second, freshman Sydney Andrews scored on a Duran double. Hartwell added her third RBI of the game on a single that scored Duran.
“I mean it when I say that Cove is the best hitting team we’ve played all year,” Lady Roos coach Randy James said. “They started fast and took advantage of our youth — we only have three seniors on the field, the rest were freshmen and sophomores.”
Five different Cove players scored two runs. Hartwell’s pitching display may have been eclipsed by her day at the plate — she went 3-for-3 with five RBIs and two triples.
“I only focused on hitting the middle of the ball,” Hartwell said. “When the ball comes at me, I zone everything out and hit it.”
In the fourth, three Killeen (0-8, 0-1) errors and three Cove hits led to five more Lady Dawgs’ runs and the lead grew to 13-1 before the run rule ended the game in the fifth.
“We know how tough this district is. We know about Belton and the others,” Hayes said. “All we can say is don’t overlook us.”