WACO — As Harker Heights’ season wound down Friday, Knights head coach Glenn Cunningham glanced at the field at Waco ISD Sports Complex and felt a tinge of encouragement.
“I looked out there at the end of the game and there’s only one senior on the field,” Cunningham said.
Heights fell in the bi-district playoffs for the second straight year, but not before tying the school record for wins in a season.
And the Knights did it with just two seniors, shortstop Caleb Dean and first baseman Wilson Owens, in the everyday lineup.
Jomar Velez-Pereira was also a regular contributor at second while Matt Sluss was often in the lineup as a designated hitter. Shepherd Mayo also gave Heights quality innings as a relief pitcher.
The rest of the Knights’ lineup and rotation consisted of players who will return next season.
“That’s a bright spot for us,” Cunningham said.
The Knights showed considerable improvement as the season wore on and finished the district season with a bang by winning six straight games to end the regular season.
Despite falling 12-2 in the first game of its playoff-opening series against Midlothian, Heights played the 7-5A runner-ups closer in the second game, staying within one run until the fifth inning.
While the final score, 8-1, wasn’t indicative of how close the game was, Cunningham still left proud of his team and its effort.
“I can’t say enough about our kids,” Cunningham said. “They competed hard. We got everything out of them.”
Now, with key returners like pitcher Daniel Cole and center fielder Michael Rae Zapata, Heights is hoping to take the next step in 2015.
And for Cunningham, that was reason to smile after the Knights were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.