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L.D. Bell recovers to beat Coppell, take series

COPPELL, Texas -- After a setback earlier Saturday, Hurst L.D. Bell remained confident and recovered for a 7-0 victory over Coppell in Game 3 of the Class 5A area round baseball series.

Bell starting pitcher Weston Sims stifled any momentum Coppell had after taking Game 2, allowing just three hits in a complete-game shutout.

After Bell's defense helps Sims escape from a bases-loaded jam in the first with a double play, he settled into his game and was able to spot up his fastball the rest of the way. Sims threw just two strikeouts but pitched to contact and allowed his defense to work behind him, seeing no more than four batters in any inning.

His best inning was the sixth, in which he needed just four pitches to retire Coppell’s 4-5-6 hitters in order. Sims said this was his best start of the season.

“I was just throwing strikes and they were hitting it and my defense was behind me a lot. We had [five] errors the first game and zero in the second, so it helped a lot.”

Bell struggled on defense in Game 2 earlier Saturday, but Sims said the team shook off any jitters and settled into a perfect glove game in Game 3.

Bell scored three in the second inning off Cullen Gassaway's solo home run and a Sydney Daley double. Gassaway sent the second pitch of his at-bat soaring over the left-center fence into a small wind.

"They had been throwing me inside a couple times and I just missed it a couple times, and I knew they were going to come back in there and challenge me up,” Gassaway said. “They did, and I made it happen.”

Coppell couldn't find consistency on the mound in Game 3, forcing coach Don English to go to the bullpen three times during the game.

Bell added its fourth run in the fourth when leadoff hitter Taylor Empkey scored on a passed ball by Coppell catcher Campbell Cooper.

The Raiders homered again in the fifth, this time off the bat of No. 9 hitter Colten Daniels. His shot went over the left-field wall, scoring Randy Cook.

The seventh and final run was driven in on a fielder’s choice hit by Empkey, scoring Cook.

“Hitting is contagious,” Bell coach Paul Gibson said. “We didn’t get anything going that first game but I knew if we break the egg and got a lead, people start relaxing. Gassaway’s home run kind of did that -- kind of lifted the weight off our shoulders a little bit.”

Even just minutes after Bell had taken the series from Coppell, the Raiders were excited to look ahead to the regional quarterfinal round where they will face a close-proximity rival in Colleyville Heritage.

Gibson said he believes sticking with a true three-man rotation through all of district play will give his team an advantage as they continue through the playoffs.

“Playing in our district, playing three games a week, allowed us to have three kids throwing all through district. We talked before the game that we have to use that to our advantage.”

GAME 2: Coppell 4, L.D. Bell 0

Coppell starter Jake Elliot confounded Bell hitters in the five-hit complete game shutout that forced Game 3.

Elliot struck out four and walked one while keeping the Bell bats off balance.

“Hats off to their kid,” Gibson said of the opposing pitcher. “He pitched a great game. You’ve just got to take your hat off to him. Sometimes that’s the way it goes in baseball when a pitcher settles in like he did. That was the difference in Game 1.”

Bell’s defense committed five errors and allowed one unearned run.

Coppell’s Adam Toth began the attack, hitting a two-out triple in the bottom of the first. Right fielder Tyler Hernandez drove him in in the next at bat.

The Cowboys' insurance runs all came in the second. Craig Aikin and Sam Swinton reached on singles to start the inning and Aikin reached home on an error by third baseman Reid Glaze.

Swinton and Matthew Kaskow were driven in on a double by Tyler Zabojnik that hopped over the wall in right center.

“One through nine is as tough a lineup as we’ve seen in a while,” Gibson said of Coppell’s offense.