The paths were different, but each ended up in the same spot.
Prior to District 8-6A competition, Copperas Cove and Shoemaker were traveling along opposite trajectories. The Bulldawgs appeared poised for a breakout season, avoiding defeat throughout nondistrict play, while the Grey Wolves lost seven of their first 11 games.
Despite their alternative routes, however, both teams enter tonight’s series opener in the identical positions — at the bottom of the standings.
Copperas Cove and Shoemaker are each 0-2 in district after being swept last week, but Bulldawgs head coach Dusty Brittain believes the recent losses are fueling his team.
“They were itching to come back to work,” he said. “I had thoughts of letting them have Saturday off to finish spring break, but they wanted to come back. They’re just dying to get out there and play another game.
“That’s a testament to the kids: They’re competitors.”
The Panthers ended the Bulldawgs’ unbeaten streak with a 7-0 victory last week before earning a 4-2 win Friday at Copperas Cove.
During the two-game span, the Bulldawgs produced just eight hits. Coming into the series, Copperas Cove’s offense delivered 148 hits to go with 136 runs.
Now, it is imperative for the Bulldawgs (14-2- 2) to end the slide.
“We’ve got to move forward,” Brittain said, “or we’re going to be stuck in a lull, and that’s the worst-case scenario.”
Conversely, Shoemaker (3-9- 1) is struggling to capture wins, falling by one run on five occasions, including a 1-0 loss in its district opener against Ellison.
Although Grey Wolves head coach Robert Conley takes nothing away from their opponents, he believes the team’s fate rests in its own hands.
“We just have to review the things we need to work on and fix them,” Conley said. “We have to take care of the things we can control, and then, whatever happens will happen.
“But we need to put ourselves in the best situation, and then do whatever we need to do to win.”
Shoemaker came agonizingly close to mounting a comeback against the Eagles on Friday but fell short after rallying from a 9-2 deficit by scoring four runs in the final two innings, including a three-run seventh inning before leaving three runners stranded in the 10-6 loss.
While it did not result in a victory, Conley believes the late surge will propel his team into tonight’s contest.
“That still generated some momentum,” he said. “It always feels good to hit the ball and start pushing some runs across the plate.
“So, if we are going to take anything away from the defeat, you have to realize that we battled back, and that’s something we can always work with. We’ve got a good group with talented players, and we’re going to put it all together.”
Regardless of who emerges with a victory tonight or which path it took to reach its current destination, the outcome will be vital.
“In this district,” Brittain said, “anybody can beat anybody on any given night, so we’re not going to take Shoemaker lightly by any means.
“As hard as it is to say this so early in the district season, this is a must win for us, and we are approaching it by putting some pressure on ourselves to go get the win.”