By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE - Bryan head coach Enrique Luna normally carries 24 players or so on his varsity roster.
He carries this many as he usually substitutes players in on a regular basis, either as courtesy or pinch runners, or to hit.
Luna only had seven on the bench Friday night at Copperas Cove, but three of his reserves came up big when called on. Two entered as runners and tied the game in the sixth inning, while Roxy Alvarado came in as a pinch hitter in the seventh and knocked in the go-ahead runs in Bryan's 5-3 win over the Lady Bulldawgs.
Alvarado was an all-District 12-5A selection last season, but the junior had been struggling lately, Luna said. She got her chance after Emily Peirce led off the seventh inning with a walk and a Kaitlyn Hathcox single gave Bryan (18-7, 6-0) runners at second and first base and no outs.
Following an out, Alvarado entered for catcher Reagan Boenker, who singled in the sixth inning. Alvarado hit a full-count pitch to left field, where the ball got away from Cove's Katie Parris and rolled to the wall. Peirce and Hathcox both came around on the error, giving the Lady Vikings the two-run lead.
Leticia Alfaro, running for Boenker (single), and Meagan Kraatz, running for Jennifer Saxby (reached on fielder's choice), scored the tying runs in the sixth inning.
"They know what their roles are," Luna said of his reserve players. "They know what's expected out of them and that was clutch for Roxy to come in there in the top of the seventh and come up with a big hit."
Said Cove coach Jim Lowery: "They're sure enough the No. 1 team in the district and we had them on the ropes, but we let them off."
Bryan's late-inning heroics erased a Lady Dawg fourth-inning rally.
The Lady Vikings needed just three batters to take an early 1-0 lead, as leadoff hitter Patty Gorzycki reached base, moved around on a Rachel Nuche sacrifice and scored on a Ashley Lara double.
Both teams then settled in as Peirce didn't allow a Cove hit through three innings and Katelynn Stephens, with the help of a few key defensive plays behind her, kept the Lady Vikings to just the lone run.
In the fourth inning, Cove's Ashley Hartwell led off with a single and beat out a throw trying to force the freshman out at second on Justine Hartwell's grounder to the left side. Shabanese Brown scored Ashley Hartwell on a single and both runners moved up to third and second base on the throw home.
Bryan caught a break when Boenker picked off Justine Hartwell at third base, but Savannah Seybold answered with a two-out single to score Brown and give Cove (13-11, 2-4) the 2-1 lead. Seybold moved up to second on an error and scored on a second Bryan error.
"I like that we stepped up," Lowery said. "Cove teams of the past, this could have been a done-in-three-innings type thing because their first batter gets up and gets on, and they scored their leadoff hitter. With Cove teams of the past, that one inning could have turned into an eight-run inning, but we stepped up."
Contact Angel Verdejo at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7564. Follow him on Twitter at KDHsports.