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Eastside, Alcovy prepare for second showdown
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Something must give when Eastside High travels to Alcovy Monday to compete in region action on the baseball field.

After all, much is at stake for these crosstown rivals - positioning and pride.

Both teams are currently tied for ninth place alongside Jackson County in Region 8-AAAA, and if either has a chance at making the postseason they better start winning.

During their first meeting on March 7, Alcovy (4-10, 3-7) got the best of the Eagles by winning an 8-5 battle in extra innings.

"We'll treat it as a regular game," said Alcovy coach Joe Mobley, "but I want them to realize that yes, we are playing a neighborhood rival and it means a lot for bragging rights. We've already got one feather in our hat, and it would be great to get another one."

For the second-year Tigers, it was their first win ever over Eastside (4-11, 4-9).

"At this point, with the record we have right now, any win is something positive for our ball club," said Eastside coach Michael Poor. "Getting a win against Alcovy would be nice because it left a sour taste in our mouth. Any time you lose a game in extra innings tends to curdle in your stomach, but thankfully we've got an opportunity to play them a second time.

"Maybe the guys will come out with some vengeance, and we'll see if they want to right the wrongs that we had last time," he added.

This season the Eagles are scoring less runs per game (4.7) than runs allowed (9.3), which is a dramatic turn around from one year ago.

Last season Eastside was 12-13 overall and 11-12 in region play. In fact, the Eagles won their fourth game of the year in just their fifth outing.

"We've really been struggling lately," Poor acknowledged. "We're just not making the routine plays, and we're not getting quality pitching on a consistent basis."

Alcovy is in a similar position, averaging 4.5 runs per game while allowing 8.5.

"It's a lot more fun to play when you're ahead than when you're behind," Mobley said, who found his team down 5-0 against Eastside in their first meeting.

Although the Tigers went 4-17 during their inaugural campaign, they have already equaled their win total, with still nine games left on the schedule.

"The key areas we've improved on most is defensive and hitting," Mobley noted. "We're getting a little bit (timelier) hitting, and our outfield has been our strength the whole year. The infield has gotten progressively better as we've gone along, too."

Nevertheless, youth and inexperience has certainly played a factor for both squads this season.

Eight of Eastside's 18 players (44 percent) are freshmen and sophomores. In comparison, seven of 15 Tigers (47 percent) are freshmen and sophomores.

"It very well could be a youth problem, but I don't want to have to say that simply because they're good, quality baseball players," Poor said of his team. "That shouldn't be leading to what our problems are right now."

According to Poor, it's some of the routine fundamentals that Eastside is trying to work out right now.

"I know they're capable of it," Poor said, "but some days we just don't look like we can catch a cold. Right now we've just got to have some more self-confidence; that's the main issue. They're capable - they just have to believe it."

As the season winds to a close, Mobley, like Poor, understands the significance of this particular matchup.

"We're going to have to have the three basics as far as I'm concerned - good pitching, great defense and timely hitting," Mobley said. "To me, those are the three basics of baseball and keys to success. If you get (that) you're going to win baseball games."