By Monty Campbell
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS Baseball is a funny game with many strange quirks but one thing is for certain, it must be played out on the field, not on paper.
Such was the case Friday night as the Harker Heights Knights, mired in seventh-place, battled toe-to-toe with the second place Copperas Cove Bulldawgs and came out on top 4-2 in a thriller.
"This was something that our kids needed," Knights head coach Glen Cunningham said. "To go through what we have gone through the last few games (two one-run losses), we really needed it."
The win was in doubt throughout but a three-run fifth inning proved to be all the Knights needed to turn the tide.
After Cove (9-13 overall, 5-3 District 13-5A) scored to take a 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth, the Knights came back and scored three in the bottom half to take the lead.
Nick Shumard opened the bottom half with an at bat that seemed to take ages to complete. Shumard got ahead in the count 3-1, then fouled off four pitches in a row before walking on the ninth pitch from Cove's Kyle Mathews.
Cody Dunn followed with a single, and after a stolen base from Shumard, left runners on the corners. Michael Carter tried to pick off Shumard from third base but his throw was in the dirt and scooted away, allowing the tying run to score.
Justin White, who was pinch-running for Dunn, advanced to second on the play and Cameron Kish came through with a double to score White. The Knights scored another insurance run via a Cove error.
Kory Wacker made the lead stand up, as he retired six of the final seven batters he faced. The sophomore allowed two runs on five hits, striking out four and walking three in the complete game victory.
"It was a gutty performance by the sophomore lefty. The team is growing up every day and this was a chance to see them keep growing," Cunningham said. "Tonight, we beat a quality team that competes real hard and I knew that Cove would not give up. We needed this one."
Cove jumped on top in the first inning on a two-out walk to Brent Garner. Then Raphael Chavez made Wacker pay for the free pass by doubling down the left-field line.
Heights (10-15, 2-6) came back to tie the score at 1-1 in the third inning, the last for Bulldawg starter Donel Morrison.
David Kipp led off with a double and after the fourth free pass to a Knight player, putting runners on first and second with no outs, Kevin Jost pulled Morrison in favor of Tuesday night's winning pitcher, Mathews.
Dunn greeted Mathews with an RBI single, tying the contest and setting up the late inning heroics.
"Tonight was all about timely hitting, they got it and we didn't," Jost said. "Our hitting was sporadic, where it took a triple and a double for us to score, and they strung together a bunch of hits."
The Dawgs will have the opportunity to string hits together again Tuesday as they host the Bryan Vikings while Harker Heights plays the Shoemaker Grey Wolves in more District 13-5A baseball. The first pitch of each game is slated to be thrown at 6:30 p.m.
Contact Monty Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org