COVINGTON - Rivalries and scorebooks aside, the Eastside and Alcovy High varsity softball teams have officially jumpstarted their season.
On Wednesday morning, the squads squared off against each other during the first scrimmage of the summer at Tiger Field.
Though score was not kept, it consisted of two five-inning games designed to work on situational drills and free substitutions in order to get as many players involved.
"Overall, I was very pleased with how our hitting was," said Eastside coach Heather Wood, "but we definitely need to work on our base running, and I saw some things on defense that we need to take care of. That's why I like having scrimmages early in the summer; you can see what our strengths and weaknesses are."
Alcovy third-year coach Casey Bates echoed similar remarks.
"I did see a lot of things we've got to work on," Bates noted, "but I saw some things today that I hadn't seen. It's just one of those things about summer ball."
Last year, the Lady Eagles were 25-10-1 overall. But after the doubleheader, the biggest challenge for Wood this year could be the lack of depth, particularly on the mound since Eastside lost three top pitchers to graduation.
"I think we're so used to having a lot of players and a lot of depth, especially two to three No. 1 pitchers," Wood said, "but I think we'll be fine because I do have Amanda Henderson (junior) and Taylor Causey (freshman), and we'll continue to work with Kayla (Jones)."
Jones, whose primary position is shortstop, started the second game in the circle. Despite walking four batters in the first inning that eventually led to two runs, the senior settled down considerably, allowing just one run and two hits over the next three innings.
Henderson, the ace of the rotation, did not participate in the scrimmage because she was at a softball camp, while Causey pitched the first game.
"Since we're not going to have the depth that we're used to having, I'm just going to have to rely on a lot of my younger girls to step up and try to balance it out for us," Wood said. "I have a good group of freshmen that I was very pleased with today."
Several of those freshmen saw plenty of playing time Wednesday, since there were many, if not all players, who saw action for both squads.
For Bates, it could be youth - again. Although the Lady Tigers improved from 4-19 in their inaugural season to 16-11, they are determined to prove that age has nothing to do with it.
Freshman catcher Andrea Milton is a young talent who will play a major factor in Alcovy's success this year.
"She did an excellent job behind the plate, and that was something that I was looking for," Bates said of his versatile player. "She can actually play the outfield and infield. Having a young kid like that stepping up is something I'm looking forward to."
In addition, Alcovy's Caitlyn Williams, a freshman, started the opening game, proving she will contribute in the rotation.
"I told Caitlyn up front these kids are supposed to hit you," Bates said, "and I wanted to see how she battled. She actually battled really hard, and I like when young kids step up like that.
"Amber Milton did a good job today," Bates added of his third baseman. "When her confidence is up, she's a force to reckon with at the plate. A lot of kids don't want to throw to her because she's got so much power."
But the heart and soul of the squad is clearly sophomore Dallas Hardin, Alcovy's No. 1 pitcher. Hardin, who started the second game and pitched three innings, utilized one of her eight pitches - a wicked knuckle curve - to record three of her five strikeouts.
"She's going to do the job every time she pitches," Bates said. "Dallas is a great little pitcher; I've got a feeling she's going to be one of the top in the state on the mound."