By Kevin Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS – The Harker Heights Knights got a reprieve for their third trip to the state high school baseball playoffs. In their first two years, the Knights faced two top-10 opponents and were outscored 25-11 in four games.
While the Georgetown Eagles, District 14-5A champions, are not ranked, they are no less formidable coming into Harker Heights tonight for the first of a three-game, first-round series against the Knights at 7 p.m.
"They may not be in the top 10, but they're in the top 10 in the state to me," said Heights coach Glenn Cunningham. "They were ranked early on, and I tell you what, they've hit some good teams around. They beat (No. 3) Corpus Christi Moody and (Houston) Cypress Fairbanks, both state champions from two years ago. They beat both of those guys in one day. That's really telling of what kind of caliber of team they are."
The Eagles (23-8) boast three Division I signees, including Taylor Jungmann, Andrew McKirahan and Morgan Mickan. All three signed with the University of Texas during this year's early signing period, marking the first time in UT history that three individuals from one high school in the same recruiting class signed.
"They're really solid, play outstanding defense and rely on their pitchers. They've got solid pitching and they play solid defense behind them and that keeps them in every game," Cunningham said. "We've got our work cut out for us, but our kids are looking forward to the challenge."
Inside Prep Baseball ranked the right-handed Jungman No. 2 in this year's Texas recruiting class behind Austin Dicharry of Klein Collins, who has also signed with Texas. Mickan, an outfielder, weighed in at No. 20 and the southpaw pitcher Mikirahan was one of the Longhorns' nine first-day signees.
Jungmann is all too familiar with this road to Round Rock, having been to the Dell Diamond twice in the last two years and once walking away with a state trophy with Class 2A Rogers last year.
"We're going to have to execute and our philosophy may have to change a little bit," Cunningham said. "We don't expect to get a lot of runs, so we've got to take advantage of the opportunities we do have.
"We have to execute our bunting opportunities and manufacture some runs when we can."
The Knights (14-13-1) also have their aces in 2007 13-5A MVP left-hander Korey Wacker and right-hander David Kipp, who's just been back in the Knights rotation for the last three weeks after suffering a broken jaw halfway through the season, though Cunningham said they had not yet decided on a Game 1 starter.
"If you have any pride in yourself, you want to prove yourself against the best people," Cunningham said. "I think they want to go out and prove that they can play in this game, too."
In addition to Kipp, the Knights also lost Mary Hardin-Baylor signee Cody Dunn earlier in the season with a broken leg, but the Knights still clinched their second straight playoff appearance in the middle of April.
"Those guys are getting a little more confidence at the plate, not to take away what the other guys did while those guys were out," Cunningham said. "But those guys have been good for us the last three years and have a little more understanding of the magnitude of the playoffs."
After tonight's game in Heights, the Knights hit the road to Georgetown for a 1 p.m. start on Saturday for Game 2, with Game 3 to follow, if necessary.
Contact Kevin Posival at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7562.