HARKER HEIGHTS — With her team holding a slim one-run lead in the top of the seventh Thursday, Jayda Carter came up big for Copperas Cove.
With runners at second and third, the sophomore sat on a 1-1 pitch and drove it over the wall in left field to put the Lady Bulldawgs up 8-4, allowing her team to exhale.
Despite surrendering two singles to Harker Heights in the bottom half of the frame, Copperas Cove pitcher Elana Montanez induced a game-ending double play on a lineout to second, and the Lady Bulldawgs clinched a postseason berth for the fifth consecutive year.
Copperas Cove (15-10- 1, 7-5 District 8-6A) started the game hot by scoring four runs in the top of the first, but only plated one more run until the seventh.
Carter’s three-run blast changed the mood.
“I knew we needed to pick it up from how we had recently been doing,” Carter said. “We weren’t as strong as we could be, and I just think it brought everyone together and everyone got some energy. It was just a relief off of my shoulders.
“Once I saw the left fielder stop and it went over, it was a lot of relief.”
Montanez earned the win in the circle with a complete game. The senior allowed four unearned runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out six.
“She’s been our steady pitcher all year long,” Lady Bulldawgs head coach Bryan Waller said. “Our thing is we want to limit leadoff walks and hit as many spots as we can. When she’s hitting her spots, as she was early on with her curveball, they’re going to have trouble hitting her.
“When she hits her spots, our defense knows where it’s supposed to go.”
Peyton Choate started the scoring in the top of the first for Copperas Cove with an RBI double to left field. The next three runs were all scored off RBI singles by Jackie Clay, Rylie Radigan and Addie Cook.
The Lady Knights (7-13, 4-8) scored their first run in the bottom of the second, as Kiara Tuncap singled to left to score Julia Sholes and pull her team within 4-1.
In the top of the fourth, the Lady Bulldawgs extended their lead to 5-1. After doubling to left, Cook advanced to third on a wild pitch and subsequently scored on a throwing error.
In the bottom of the sixth, however, Harker Heights made it very interesting.
Jessica Reyes scored on an error, and with runners at second and third, Klaudia Bohac pulled a double down the left-field line to score two runs and pull the Lady Knights within one.
“These girls aren’t quitters, for sure,” Harker Heights head coach Sarah Cruddas said. “They like a challenge. It seems like they put themselves in that situation sometimes so they can overcome it, but we just fell a little short tonight.”
In the top of the seventh, Montanez singled on a blooper to right before Kristen Wasiak reached on a bunt that went for an error. That set up Carter’s big shot, and Copperas Cove punched its ticket to the postseason with a four-run triumph.
“Having that hot start, it’s the best we’ve started in quite a while,” Waller said. “That got us going, and we had a great defensive inning that first inning – three up, three down. But we’ve got to make sure we stay on the gas pedal.
“I don’t know if we got complacent or not, but we stopped being as aggressive as we needed at the plate and stopped being as confident as we needed to be. We tell them all the time that if we let any team stay in it, they can give us fits. We’ve still got to handle pressure a little bit better than we have at times.”
Both teams are scheduled to return to the field Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Lady Bulldawgs will host Killeen, and the Lady Knights will travel to Shoemaker.