HARKER HEIGHTS — Randy Culp finally feels his team is where it needs to be.
Despite being 18 games into the season, Harker Heights was struggling to create cohesion on the field, falling out of playoff positioning early in the District 12-6A schedule.
Following Tuesday’s performance, however, the Knights are moving in the right direction.
Harker Heights rallied from an early deficit and held off a late surge to defeat Killeen 7-6 and pull within a game of third-place Copperas Cove and Ellison in the standings.
Now, the Knights’ head coach believes early-season kinks are on the verge of being completely ironed out.
“It’s been a weird season,” Culp said, “because usually when you come out of your tournaments, you’ve kind of figured out what you are going to do as far as your lineup an pitching order, but we were still piecing it together.
“It has definitely been different, but we’re in a good place now, and the guys have a good feeling of what we’re trying to accomplish.”
The added understanding did not make defeating the Kangaroos easy, though.
The squads combined for eight runs during the first three innings with Harker Heights’ sandwiching a pair of two-run innings around Killeen’s four-run outburst in the second inning.
Then, in the fourth inning, Easton Culp gave the Knights a lead they would not relinquish.
The second baseman hit a two-RBI triple to centerfield to break the tie before pushing Harker Heights’ advantage to 7-4 by scoring on a wild pitch during the following at bat. He went 2 for 3 with three runs scored and two RBIs.
“I kind of thought we were going to explode for some runs in the first inning,” Randy Culp said, “but they limited us with a good play. We were in it every inning, though.
“They have a good pitcher, and we were lucky to get some hits off him.”
Killeen (6-14, 2-6) immediately responded in the fifth inning, pulling within a run after Carlos Ramon and Jose Ayala connected for RBI shots, but the Kangaroos could not get any closer, leaving three runners stranded in the top of the seventh.
Along with Easton Culp, Harker Heights third baseman Brandon Kluna finished with three RBIs, while eight players recorded hits for Killeen, including Alnaldo Lonzo, Jackson Taylor, Josh Weaver and Ayala, who had two hits apiece.
Riley Bridenstine earned the pitching victory for the Knights.
Now, Harker Heights (10-8-1, 4-4) is situated in a two-way tie with Temple for fifth place in district heading into Friday’s contest at Shoemaker.
“We’ve still got some things to address,” Randy Culp said, “but we’ve played Shoemaker once already and have a good idea of what to expect.
“It’s going to come down to making adjustments and staying focused.”
TUESDAY'S 12-6A SCORES
- Belton 4, Ellison 1
- Copperas Cove 11, Shoemaker 1, 5 inn.
- Harker Heights 7, Killeen 6
- Waco Midway 4, Temple 1
Waco Midway (7-1)
Copperas Cove (5-3)
Harker Heights (4-4)