TEMPLE — Temple was faced with the challenge of keeping its composure after falling behind early Friday night.
The Wildcats passed that test, led by two of their younger players.
Temple rallied around the pitching of freshman Dylan Cheek and the defense of sophomore right fielder Keion Seastrunk for a 4-2 win over Copperas Cove in a District 8-5A game at Hallford Field.
It was the third straight victory for the Wildcats (4-12, 4-2), who rebounded from an 0-10 start.
After Cove (9-7-1, 2-4) took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, Cheek (2-3) settled into a groove and leaned on a changeup to throw six straight shutout innings. He had three strikeouts and scattered seven hits and a walk.
“I told myself after the first inning that my defense has my back,” Cheek said. “After our bad start, practices got harder and coaches got on us more, but we’re really coming together as a team. We’re doing the things the coaches know we can do.”
The Wildcats got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first thanks to an RBI single to center by Hunter Torrez, and they tied it at 2-2 in the fourth on a run-scoring single to center by Seastrunk.
Temple went ahead in the fifth when Chase Stone delivered an RBI groundout and Ricky Ortiz scored on a wild pitch by Charlie Folger (3-2).
Seastrunk had a big hand in keeping the Bulldawgs from adding to their run total.
In the fifth, Bryce Delano tried to advance from first to third on Michael Hays’ single but was thrown out on Seastrunk’s strike to third baseman Adam Valenta. In the seventh, Ryan Dorro reached on an errant throw but was gunned down at second when Seastrunk retrieved the ball from foul ground and made another precise throw.
Temple coach Craig Martin was impressed with his team’s response to the first half-inning, believing it shows the in-season transformation his team has undergone.
“In earlier parts of the year, we might have got flustered after what happened in the top of the first, but I didn’t really say anything to rally them,” Martin said. “Dylan is a freshman, but he has gone through a lot of experiences this year. I didn’t have to say anything to settle him down.”
The Bulldawgs did not get enough timely hits off Cheek, leaving three runners in scoring position.
They wasted a solid outing by Folger, who used a corner-clipping curveball for eight strikeouts, with at least one in every inning. Folger allowed seven hits and two walks.
“I thought we hit well. We just didn’t come through with the clutch hit,” Copperas Cove coach Dusty Brittain said. “I thought the kids played their tails off. I’m not disappointed in anything except the loss.”
Ortiz and Reid Hesse had two hits each for Temple. Ortiz scored Temple’s first run after hitting a double to right-center. Kyle Winstead and Dorro had two hits apiece for Cove, including Winstead’s RBI single in the first.
The game was originally scheduled to be played in Copperas Cove but was moved to Hallford Field because of wet field conditions.
The rematch April 22 will be played in Copperas Cove.
Temple hosts Killeen on Thursday while Cove plays at Harker Heights.