HARKER HEIGHTS — For years, Randy Culp witnessed his standout produce clutch plays. Wednesday was no different.
In a District 8-6A game delayed by Tuesday morning’s heavy rainfall, Harker Heights entered the bottom of the sixth inning tied 3-3 with Copperas Cove.
With one swing, however, Knights senior Daniel Cole broke the deadlock, sending a solo home run over the left-field wall. Then, with a runner on first in the top of the seventh, Cole stepped to the mound, throwing three consecutive strikeouts to the only batters he faced, securing a 4-3 win for Harker Heights.
Following the victory, the Knights’ head coach admitted Cole’s performance was not unexpected.
“I just wish there was a way I could bottle up whatever it is he has and give it to everybody else,” Culp said. “Everybody just rises up with him, because he is just an ultimate competitor, and he does it in such a positive way.
“That’s the kind of guy you want in those situations, and I’m just really happy to see him do it again in a big game.”
On the heels of handing San Angelo Central its first district loss and snapping the Bobcats’ 14-game win streak Friday, Copperas Cove (11-11, 4-5) never led against the Knights, falling into an immediate hole to
start the game.
After going three up and three down to open the contest, the Bulldawgs allowed two runs in the bottom of the first inning as Tre Martin and Spencer Young each recorded a RBI single.
The score held into the top of third inning, when Copperas Cove catcher Michael Goudeau crossed home plate on a passed ball, but Harker Heights (9-12-1, 6-3) responded in the bottom half of the inning.
With two outs, Young, who finished 3 for 3, tallied his second RBI, scoring teammate Kaven Jones, who reached base on a walk, pushing the Knights’ lead back to two runs, 3-1.
But the cushion was quickly deflated in the fourth inning as a fielding error with two outs allowed Cedric Camacho and Nick Izquierdo to score, tying the contest.
The runs did not result in a momentum swing, though.
“We had some miscues in the field that are not really typical of us,” Culp said, “but when you can bounce back from a two-out, two-run error and come back from that, it just really makes me proud of the way the kids played.
“We didn’t panic ever. We were just really focused and really confident.”
Late in the game, Cole proved as much, and while the outcome was disappointing, Copperas Cove head coach Dusty Brittain has no problem admitting the Knights earned the win.
“I told the guys that games like this are all about execution,” he said. “When you miss opportunities against a good team, they’re going to make you pay.”
Now, the squads turn around and play again tonight at Copperas Cove, where the Knights will look to sweep the season series, but Culp knows it will not be easy.
“This should be a good warm-up if we are lucky enough to make the playoffs,” he said. “This will help us understand that even when you play a big game, you have to turn right around and do it again.
“We have to move on because we can’t live off today’s energy. We have to refocus and move on.”