By Evan Mohl
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS – With the District 13-5A baseball season at the midway point, the Harker Heights Knights feel pretty good about the position they're in.
After beating A&M Consolidated, 9-2, for the first time in school history on Tuesday, the Knights are 4-2 in league play and tied with Belton – a team they lost to in a 1-0 nail biter a few weeks ago – for second in the district.
"We're real happy with where we're at," Harker Heights coach Glenn Cunningham said. "Coming into the season, we expected to compete for a district title, and I'm pleased with our position heading into the second half of league play."
Their work, however, is far from over. On Friday, the Knights will get a rematch with the Tigers in Belton. The winner will gain sole possession of second place behind the undefeated Bryan Vikings.
It's arguably the biggest game of the season for Harker Heights.
"It's a big one for sure, and it'd be great to win it." Cunningham said. "Belton's got a great history and they're a talented team.
"Still, it's just one of six games we have left to play, and it's a long road."
And the Knights know something about long roads and taking things one game at a time.
Injuries could have easily derailed the Knight's season. The team's No. 2 and 3 pitchers – Cody Dunn and David Kipp – have been out for most of the season and all of league play. The two also hit three and four in the Heights lineup.
Dunn suffered from a broken leg, while Kipp broke his jaw.
"Our kids could have easily folded," Cunningham said. "Any time you lose two valuable players, it hurts and can really change the makeup of your team. Those kinds of kids are hard to replace."
Dunn and Kipp are both seniors. Dunn signed with the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor to play baseball next year, while Kipp was a first team all-district selection last year.
Both could return to play next week, but as things stand now, the Knights are doing just fine without two of their stars.
"I'm so proud of our kids for hanging in there and fighting adversity," Cunningham said. "When things didn't look good, they fought hard."
Every single player on the team has stepped up, but two fellow seniors, Korey Wacker and Ryan Balentine, have been tremendous in the absence of Kipp and Dunn.
Wacker tossed a nine-inning no-hitter against Ellison and has six wins on the season. Balentine, who hadn't pitched since little league, has become a viable second starter. He has two wins in district while anchoring the lineup at the leadoff spot as the team's top hitter.
"Those two (Wacker and Balentine) are the leaders," Cunningham said. "I told them that we're going to go where they take us, and they've met the challenge pretty well, leading us to a tie for second place in district."
Contact Evan Mohl at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7564.