By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE – Copperas Cove didn't get many chances Wednesday early against Ellison, but took advantage of the one it got late in the game.
The Lady Eagles couldn't capitalize on their early opportunities and those failed chances cost them on the road.
Ellison did rally in the sixth inning and tied the score, but the Cove's Shabanese Brown drove home Ashley Hartwell with the game winner in the seventh for the 3-2 win.
The Lady Bulldawgs (11-8, 1-1 District 12-5A) almost didn't need Brown's heroics, as Cove had runners on third (Katie Parris) and first (Hartwell) base and just one out in the seventh inning. Justine Hartwell was up before Brown and put down a bunt that fell right in front of the plate. Ellison catcher Amanda Cruddas quickly corralled the ball and tagged out Parris before she could score.
Then came Brown, who Cove coach Jim Lowery said "has been crushing it all year."
"Even with two outs," Lowery said. "With Shaba coming up, I feel pretty good about things. She may not get a hit every time, but you know she's going to get her money's worth."
Brown didn't wait, hitting the first pitch she saw in the at bat through the infield and bringing home Ashley from third base.
Not only did Brown's single prevent extra innings, but it didn't give the Lady Eagles and the middle of their order another chance to score.
"I told the girls, 'We need to score this inning and get this thing done.'" said Lowery before Cove's seventh-inning at-bat. "The way the game started, I was just hoping we'd get a baserunner, but they kept battling, worked hard the whole time and good things happen for you sometimes."
Ellison (0-1) tied the game the inning before, getting two runs off two hits and a Cove error. Cleanup hitter Tiffany Miles reached on the error and scored on a Kasey Busch double. Toni Johnson then reached on a bunt single, putting runners at the corners with one out.
On the next pitch, Johnson took off for second base and Cove catcher Savannah Seybold threw down with the throw getting cut off by Ashley Hartwell in front of second. Hartwell then threw back to Seybold, who tagged out Busch. Johnson, after stealing second, was far enough off the base to entice a throw from Seybold, but the throw was high and went all the way to the centerfield wall, easily scoring Johnson to tie the game.
"We had the chance for the double play," Lowery said. "Savannah came up firing and I'll have her do that every time, but it went a little high."
Said Ellison coach Carrie Erskine-Biels: "I know this team better than anything and this year we haven't had too many rallies, but I know they're a rally team. Inside their hearts, they're not ones to give up. It took us this game to get it, and I think from here on out, we're going to see positive things."
It was the missed chances early that even required the sixth-inning rally.
Ellison put the first two batters on to start the game and loaded the bases with one, but Cove starter Katelynn Stephens escaped the jam with back-to-back strikeouts. When the top of the order came back around in the third inning, leadoff hitter Halley Ingram and second hitter Alicia Jones again both reached base, giving the Lady Eagles two on and no outs.
But Stephens came through again. She struck out Rayven Jones and Miles before Lopez was forced out at second base on a fielder's choice to end the threat. Ellison had five hits in the first three innings, but stranded five runners.
Contact Angel Verdejo at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7465. Follow him on Twitter at KDHsports.