By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE – Temple didn't necessarily need the extra runs – the Tem-Cats were up going into the seventh inning Tuesday.
But they, or more specifically head coach Steve Prentiss, felt a little more comfortable with the insurance.
Temple didn't get just one insurance run, but three, as Kaegan Jimenez's home run and Elisa Espinoza's bases-clearing double helped the Tem-Cats stretch their lead and go on for a 5-1 road win over Copperas Cove.
"Any time you can get more than a one-run cushion, especially in that type of ballgame, you'll take it," Prentiss said.
Helping fuel Temple's late charge was the carryover from the Tem-Cats (12-12, 3-2 District 12-5A) holding off a Cove (13-10, 2-3) rally attempt the inning before.
Cove's Shabanese Brown just missed a home run to lead off the sixth, instead settling for a double that one hopped the centerfield wall. Espinoza followed by striking out Paige Thornhill before Savannah Seybold hit a grounder to Temple third baseman Lauren Guevara.
Guevara turned around and faced Brown, who was halfway between third and second base, before forcing her back to second, where she threw to Jimenez to tag out Brown. Temple celebrated the out and was caught off-guard as Seybold took off for and reached second base.
Now with two out, Espinoza got out of the inning, striking out Kaela Cantrell.
"Getting out of that was big," Prentiss said. "I wasn't sure if we could win a ballgame right now. We've had two tough losses coming into this game and you just worry about anything that's negative."
Temple then needed just one pitch to extend its lead. Jimenez hit the first one she saw from Cove starter Katelynn Stephens over the centerfield wall.
Stephens came back with a strikeout, but walked both Taylor Valentin and Guevara before striking out Sarah Truelove. The sophomore had a 1-1 count on Espinoza before the Temple pitcher doubled to left field, scoring both Valentin and Guevara for the 5-1 lead.
"The home run was a huge lift, getting that extra run on the board," Prentiss said. "It opens up some things."
Espinoza then finished off the Lady Dawgs as she had for most of the game. The junior struck out Kinzi Courtney and Megan Martel – Espinoza's 14th and 15th strikeouts for the day – before getting a ground out to end it.
Espinoza had at least one strikeout in every inning and recorded all three outs by strikeout in the first and third innings. She struck out every Cove starter at least once.
"We can't strike out that many times and expect to have a chance," Lowery said. "Now, Espinoza was on – she had our number (Tuesday) – but I don't see us striking out that much."
The strikeouts hurt, Lowery said, in that Cove didn't force the Tem-Cats to play defense and the Lady Dawgs couldn't capitalize on possible Temple miscues.
"For us to have a chance, we have to do whatever it takes to get the ball in play," he said. "If you put the ball in play, you have a chance of good things happening, but we didn't do that."
Temple took a first-inning lead as Jenna Bane was hit to start the game, stole second, went to third base on a fielder's choice and scored on a Valentin sacrifice. Truelove single home Guevara to go up 2-0 in the third.
Cove cut the lead in half in its third-inning at-bat with a Thornhill single scoring Ashley Hartwell.