By Clay Fowler
Killeen Daily Herald
Shoemaker softball practice consists of more than just fielding a few grounders and some light batting practice.
Head coach Kelly Berg makes his players aware they are competing for slots in the game-day lineup.
Thus, in not only her first varsity game, but her first varsity start, freshman Valerie Heinrich was comfortable with the competitive atmosphere. Her 2-for-3, 3-RBI night verified her practice performance and helped the Lady Grey Wolves to a 5-3 win over Copperas Cove on Friday.
Five of Shoemaker's eight hits were provided by freshmen, another by a sophomore. Freshman catcher Samamtha Berg, an everyday starter, was 3-for-3, sophomore right fielder Adrienne Hargrove, called up to the varsity four games ago, was 1-for-1 with a run scored.
"We want the younger players hungry to get in there," said Berg. "And the same goes for the seniors. If they can earn a spot in practice, they can play."
Neither Shoemaker (8-16, 3-7 District 13-5A) nor Cove (5-13, 1-9) is in playoff contention.
SHS starting pitcher Ashton Fahl scattered seven hits over a complete game, allowing three runs, two earned.
After Heinrich's sharply hit two-run single up the middle awarded Shoemaker a 5-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth, Copperas Cove mounted a charge in their final at bat.
With runners on the corners, Cove's Jessica Shutie dropped a single in short right field. Hargrove's throw home sailed to the backstop, allowing both runners in and the tying run to the plate.
"It was like deja vu. They were doing to us what we did to them at their place," said Berg in reference to Shoemaker's 6-4 win at Cove on March 14 courtesy a five-run final inning.
With one out, Fahl then induced a pop up and Marquita Johnson, in her first varsity game of the season, snared a grounder on the edge of the infield dirt, flipping to first for the final out.
"We just don't have the power to come back from a three, four run deficit," said Cove coach Jim Lowery. "The big inning is not our forte."
Shoemaker didn't produce any big innings, but the small ones added up early. With a run each in the second, third and fourth innings, the Lady Wolves held a 3-0 advantage until Cove's Markia Bordeaux (3-for-3) scored on Cat Nottingham's RBI double in the sixth.
In the second Heinrich drove the first pitch she saw into left field, sending Deana Somera home for the first of her three runs scored. Alysha Currie provided an RBI single in the third and Somera scampered home on a pickoff attempt in the fourth.
"We still need to hit the ball better," said Berg.
The Lady Wolves will surely work on that, among other things, in practice.
Contact Clay Fowler at email@example.com