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Posted: October 18, 2011 6:52 p.m.

Lady Eagles face tough opponent in round two

Eastside softball squeaked out two close victories over Harlem last week in the opening round of the Class AAA playoffs and is rewarded with a trip to West Laurens to take on a Raider team also looking to get back to Columbus for the Elite Eight.

It won’t be easy. West Laurens easily dispatched Dougherty 16-1, 19-0 in its opening round matchup and come into the three-game series winners of 10 of their past 11 games. What’s more, six of those victories were shutouts and the Raiders have authored 13 such performances in their 30 wins on the season.

Eastside’s offense struggled against Harlem, scoring just three runs on 10 hits in the two games. Going back to their final game of the region tournament and Eastside has scored four runs on 14 hits. Amanda Hawkins, Taylor Causey and Victoria Reich have been the Eagles most consistent hitters recently while the rest of the lineup has sporadically produced.

For the Eagles to win this series, they’ll need production from the top of the lineup. Erin Steele, who is often inserted in the ninth position as a second leadoff hitter so-to-speak was able to get on base to fuel both Eastside rallies against Harlem. Steele’s bat has gone dormant in recent games and Eastside can ill-afford having its spark plug not get on base. Steele makes thing happen on the bases and has great awareness. She isn’t alone. Bianca Reed was quiet offensively in round one and she is equally capable on the bases.

Defensively the Eagles turned it around against Harlem after struggling mightily against Locust Grove in the region championship series. The Eagles can expect another team that makes consistent contact and puts the ball in play. How the Eagles play in the field will certainly play a major role in who wins this series.

In the circle, Taylor Causey is pitching well and will keep Eastside in games. She hasn’t had the strikeout stuff she did a year ago and that could be attributed to her lack of work this year. She’s been back from injury less than a month and is still feeling her way through each outing. Her velocity may be down a touch but her control has been very consistent. Harlem drew some walks because of their discipline and West Laurens will certainly do the same. But Causey has shown time and time again that she’s a bulldog and won’t get rattled even on the road.

The Eagles has to look no further than their second-round upset of Worth County on the road last year for inspiration. Much like West Laurens, Worth County steamrolled through the regular season and first round of the playoffs. Eastside won the series in two games. While that doesn’t guarantee Eastside will author a repeat performance today. It at least gives them some confidence in their back pocket. The rest will come down to execution and who plays the best.

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