HARKER HEIGHTS — Ellison found itself in familiar territory Tuesday night.
The last time the Eagles played in extra innings, they lost.
It happened again Tuesday.
Jackson Rinehart hit a walk-off single into the left-field corner of Knights field in the bottom of the ninth inning to propel Harker Heights to a 7-6 victory at home.
Rinehart was 3 for 3 on the night.
“It’s always exciting to win,” said Rinehart. “It’s just nice to play like that and have a team that plays a whole game.”
The Eagles (9-4 12-6A) tried to break away early but the Knights (6-7) battled back and kept the score even through five innings.
Ellison’s bats erupted in the top of the fourth with a home run from Joseph Marin. Another run scored on a passed ball, and Preston Mills hit an RBI single to give Ellison a 5-2 lead.
Harker Heights answered, putting two runners in scoring position for Rinehart, who knocked the ball into deep left-center field for a two-run double to cut the deficit to 5-4. The Knights weren’t finished, proceeding to load the bases with nobody out.
Eagles starting pitcher Edward Eakin struck out consecutive batters but then hit Ryan Gawryszewski in the lower back with a pitch, sending the tying run home.
Eakin struck out the next batter to limit the damage.
“They’ve got to show up prepared to play every day,” said Ellison head coach Ty Oppermann, whose team’s third-place lead over Copperas Cove was cut to one game. “Give credit to Heights, they kept fighting, but that was just too many walks, too many errors, too many bad swings at the plate.
“We have to go and get our focus back. Their minds weren’t in the game.”
The Knights and Eagles went back and forth on the scoreboard all night.
A sacrifice fly into right field from Julien Jimenez brought Mills sliding home to give Ellison an early 1-0 lead.
Rinehart led off the bottom of the first for the Knights with a base hit. Ratcliffe and Kluna walked, which brought up sophomore Chan Rinehart.
With a sacrifice fly into right field, the younger Rinehart allowed his older brother to come home and tie the game.
“I love playing with him,” Jackson said of playing with his brother in his senior year. “It’s going to suck not playing with him again, but I’m living it up right now playing with him.
“I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Heights’ Spencer Young reached on a base hit in the bottom of the second. The speedy center fielder stole his way to third base before giving the Knights a 2-1 lead on a passed ball.
Young also closed out the game on the mound, throwing five innings with five strikeouts and no walks.
“We fought back. ... I’m really proud of them,” said Heights head coach Randy Culp. “Really proud of the way (starting pitcher Brandon) Kluna threw, really proud of the way Spencer threw when he came in.
“He really dominated when he came in.”
Ellison answered in the top of the third with an RBI single from Eakin to bring home Julien Vascot.
Neither team scored after the sixth inning until Rinehart’s game-winner.
“We’re just trying to take care of games we can take care of,” Culp said. “And that’s all we can do is try to win games.
“They did a really good job tonight against a really good Ellison team and we kept ourselves in the game.”
Ellison hosts Killeen on Thursday and can clinch a playoff spot with a win.
Sixth-place Harker Heights hosts 12-6A co-leader Waco Midway on Thursday. The Knights trail Cove for the final playoff spot by two games with three games remaining. Heights is also a half-game behind Temple.
TUESDAY'S 12-6A SCORES
- Copperas Cove 10, Temple 2
- Harker Heights 7, Ellison 6, 9 innings
- Killeen 2, Shoemaker 0
- Waco Midway 2, Waco 0