COPPERAS COVE — Cameron Johnson did not forget.
After Belton crushed Copperas Cove’s postseason hopes last year with a 2-1 victory in a playoff play-in game, the teams reunited in the Bulldawgs’ home finale Tuesday evening.
This time, however, the outcome was different.
Despite allowing two runs in the top of the first inning, Copperas Cove bounced back behind its pitcher.
Johnson struck out nine batters and only gave up one hit during the final six innings as the Bulldawgs clinched a playoff berth with a 5-2 win.
Following the victory, Johnson admitted there was added incentive to perform.
“Every year there are a lot of emotions when we play Belton,” the senior said, “even during my freshman year.
“Coming into this game, we knew we had to beat Belton, because it would mean a lot and just give us such a boost.”
Copperas Cove head coach Dusty Brittain agreed.
“That loss was lingering in all the guys’ minds a little bit,” he said. “All these guys are back from that team, and they were itching for this win, and they were itching to get back in the playoffs.
“So, to be in is great, but we have a bigger goal — we want to make some noise.”
The victory puts the Bulldawgs (23-4- 2, 9-4) in second place of the District 8-6A standings entering Friday’s regular-season finale at Belton, where they can secure the spot with a win.
Early in the game, though, it appeared the roles would be reversed.
Reese Perry hit a two-RBI double in the top of the first inning to give the Tigers, who also captured a playoff berth thanks to Waco Midway’s win against Ellison, an immediate advantage, but it would not last.
In the bottom of the inning, Copperas Cove third baseman Josh Ropple scored on a passed ball to cut the deficit in half, and the Bulldawgs tied the score one inning later, when Jacob Wagner’s sacrifice fly scored teammate Nick Izquierdo, who reached base with a double. Izquierdo was 2 for 3.
Copperas Cove claimed its first lead in the third inning, when Johnson’s RBI triple sent Michael Goudeau across home plate, and moments later, Tyler Ingram’s sacrifice fly allowed Johnson to score, inflating the Bulldawgs’ cushion to 5-2.
“Countless guys came through over and over with big hits,” Brittain said. “Every run matters, and playoff teams deliver.
“Tonight, I thought we looked like a playoff team.”
Belton (12-13- 2, 8-5) held Copperas Cove scoreless in the fourth inning before the Bulldawgs tacked on their final run in the fifth inning thanks to Ingram’s second RBI.
Now, the Bulldawgs will look to close out the season with their seventh consecutive victory, and although they do not need a win to reach the playoffs, Brittain wants to.
“We still have unfinished business,” he said. “We want to avoid any crazy scenarios that might happen if we split.
“So, this is going to be a big-time business trip for us on Friday.”
TUESDAY'S 8-6A BASEBALL
- Copperas Cove 5, Belton 2
- Killeen 2, Harker Heights 0
- San Angelo Central 12, Shoemaker 3
- Waco Midway 4, Ellison 0
y-Waco Midway 13-0
x-Copperas Cove 9-4
x-San Angelo Central 8-5
Harker Heights 3-10
y-clinched district title
x-clinched playoff spot