By Nick Talbot
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON - With starting pitcher John Beck, a University of Texas-Arlington signee, still sidelined with a sore arm, the Belton Tigers are counting on Tyler Vail to help fill the void.
So far, so good.
Vail pitched a complete game while striking out six and only allowing two first inning hits as Belton defeated Copperas Cove 10-1 on Friday at Belton High.
"He had a little shaky first inning, but he settled down after that and did good," said Belton coach Eddie Cornblum. "… It is crucial for him (to come out and get wins for us). He is probably our number two (pitcher) right now, and with guys being hurt, it is good to see we have the depth we need."
Vail did not allow a baserunner in the third through sixth innings.
"I started getting warm and getting a feel for the mound," Vail said. "I started throwing strikes and hitting my spots better.
"With Beck out, I have to come out and do my job, until he can come back and help us out."
At least Vail did not have to worry about run support.
With one swing Shane Hoelscher gave him all he needed.
The Belton senior, who has committed to Rice, took a 2-2 pitch from Cove's Cody Brannon and sent it over the right-center field fence for a grand slam.
Belton (15-5, 3-1 in District 12-5A) batted around in the five-run second inning as Dillon Newman and Colbi Fuentes both drew walks, Seth Alcozer had an infield single and Cooper Smith an RBI single, all in addition to the bases-clearing blast by Hoelscher.
"When Shane came up and hit that ball out with two strikes and two outs it changed the game," said Copperas Cove coach C.J. Wilk. "If that ball doesn't go out, it could have been closer. When you come to play Belton … you have to play your best game."
After Fuentes hit a solo homer to lead off the first, Cove had tied the game in the bottom of the inning after a leadoff double by Cody Brannon and an RBI groundout by Billy Mee.
An inning later, the Bulldawgs' (9-11, 0-4) hopes of pulling an upset were quickly dashed with the five-run second inning.
In the fourth, Belton scored three more runs, and only needed one hit to do it. Runs scored on an error, a wild pitch and an RBI single by Hoelscher, who went 2-for-3 at the plate, scored three runs and drove in five runs.
"It was a good timely hit," Cornblum said. "… Timely hitting is what we need right now and he gave it to us tonight."