HARKER HEIGHTS — Sometimes, less is more.
Fresh off its first District 8-6A victory, Harker Heights returned to the field Tuesday looking to build on the momentum of its 19-12 win against Ellison by producing another impressive offensive outing.
For Lady Knights third baseman Ja’lynn Swiney, success depended on simplifying her approach.
“I was just trying to not do too much,” she said. “I always put so much pressure on myself, so I was just trying to put the bat on the ball for my team.”
The strategy worked.
Swiney was 4 for 4 at the plate, including a home run that ricocheted off the scoreboard in centerfield, with a pair of RBIs and three stolen bases, leading Harker Heights to a 4-2 victory against Copperas Cove.
Following the performance, Lady Knights head coach Sarah Cruddas admitted Swiney was the catalyst for her team’s nine-hit showing.
“Ja’lynn is just an all-around great athlete,” she said, “and she just brings so much to the team, and when she’s on, the whole team is on.
“So, it’s always nice when she has a good day, because everybody else just follows suit.”
Swiney recorded Harker Heights’ first hit in the second inning, scoring the game’s opening run moments later after teammate Valeria Cosme was walked with the bases loaded.
In the following inning, Swiney doubled the Lady Bulldawgs’ deficit with a RBI single, sending Marissa Stillwell across home plate.
Copperas Cove (2-3) responded in the fourth inning as Misi-Kuputo Ismael knocked in Maria Hanna, but Swiney had an answer, inflating the Lady Knights’ advantage to 3-1 in the fifth inning with her solo home run.
“I wasn’t expecting to hit a homer,” Swiney said. “I just knew if I liked the pitch, I was going to swing at it.”
And the hit did more than simply add a run to the scoreboard, according to Cruddas.
“It hyped everybody up,” she said, “but that can be a bad thing, because everybody might just start swinging for the fences. So, we just wanted to tone all that down and try to get base hits.”
Designated player Jenny Saylor was walked in the following at-bat, and two batters later, Madelyn Garrison’s RBI single allowed her teammate to score, inflating the Lady Knights’ lead to 4-1. Garrison was 2 for 3.
Lady Bulldawgs shortstop Jayda Carter hit a solo home run in the sixth inning, but Swiney capitalized on a pair of Copperas Cove miscues, ending the inning by tagging out two runners at third base in consecutive at-bats.
“We had a chance to get back in it,” Lady Bulldawgs head coach Bryan Waller said, “but those base-running mistakes took away our chances to score.”
Now, Harker Heights (2-3) will look to maintain the momentum despite spring break preventing the Lady Knights from playing again until Tuesday, when they travel to Shoemaker.
“We just have to keep coming out and keep working,” Swiney said. “We can’t let up at all.
“We have to keep remembering the games like this one to remind ourselves of how we can be successful by playing hard and competing at a high level.”