WEST — Dusty Brittain was baffled.
Copperas Cove’s offense produced all season, scoring 231 runs in 30 games prior to the playoffs. The Bulldawgs delivered double-digit runs nine times and were held to fewer than three on only six occasions.
With its season on the line, however, the trend ended.
Copperas Cove collected the game’s first run in the opening inning, but the Bulldawgs did not cross home plate again, and Irving MacArthur capitalized, clinching the Class 6A bi-district championship with a 5-1 victory in Game 3 of the series.
Following the loss, Copperas Cove’s head coach had little explanation for the lack of production, especially after losing 3-1 in Game 2 on Friday.
“We’ve hit the ball real well all year long,” Brittain said, “but we just didn’t do it in these last two games.
“I don’t know if it was just the moment, but the kids worked hard, and they were focused during pregame. Sometimes it just doesn’t roll your way.”
Led by second baseman Jacob Wagner and pitcher Tyler Ingram, who had two hits apiece, the Bulldawgs recorded eight hits in the loss, putting runners in scoring position multiple times, but it rarely translated to offense. In total, Copperas Cove left a dozen runners stranded.
“MacArthur came through with a couple two-out hits,” Brittain said, “and we just couldn’t come through.
“That’s the story of the game, but that’s what playoff baseball is all about — clutch hitting.”
Early on, the Bulldawgs seemed set to have a strong offensive outing.
After Copperas Cove catcher Michael Goudeau was walked in the game’s opening at-bat, teammate Colby Jost sent him across home plate four batters later with a single to right field.
But it proved the be the Bulldawgs’ lone score.
MacArthur (21-12-1) took control of the contest with a two-run third inning before inflating its advantage to 4-1 in the fifth inning.
Then, the Cardinals scored the game’s final run in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Copperas Cove (25-6-2) had opportunities to trim the deficit in the final two innings but left a pair of runners stranded in each inning.
The loss ended the high school careers of senior starters Cameron Johnson, Jaylen Smith and Ingram, and Brittain admits the trio will be difficult to replace.
“We’ve been riding their coattails for four years now,” Brittain said, “and they’ve been a big part of this team’s leadership.
“The next class has a lot to learn from these guys.”
Despite the losses, the Bulldawgs will be poised to potentially reach the playoffs for a second consecutive year, returning Ropple, Jost, left fielder Nick Izquierdo, catcher Michael Goudeau, second baseman Jacob Wagner and designated hitter Justin Velesky, who are all juniors.
“This loss isn’t going to feel good to those guys in the short term,” Brittain said, “but it is a good experience.
“We’ll have holes to fill, but playoff experience and playoff at-bats are always huge in the maturing process.”