Last week, heavy rains washed away most of high school softball in north Georgia, giving many teams an unanticipated week off the diamond.
Such an extended period of mid-season inactivity can be a dangerous thing for a softball team. Pitchers often forget where the strike zone is, hitters tend to lose their timing and any momentum accumulated prior to the down-time can vanish into thin air.
Unfortunately for Winder-Barrow, Eastside experienced none of these things on Tuesday evening.
The visiting Lady Bulldogs (3-10, 1-3 Region 8-AAAA, Sub-region B) had hoped to catch the Lady Eagles (12-4, 4-0) a little rusty after a 10-day layoff. Instead, Eastside proved to be as sharp as ever, riding Amanda Henderson's dominant pitching and Shea Shepherd's game-ending grand slam to an impressive 18-0 victory in a matchup of region foes.
"This was my first grand slam in school ball," Shepherd said afterward. When asked what kind of pitch it was that she had crushed over the center field fence, she said she wasn't sure. She was, however, sure about one thing: "It felt good."
There were plenty of good feelings to go around for the Lady Eagles. They pounded out 14 hits - seven for extra bases - against Winder starter Erin Vrooman. In fact, Eastside scored 10 times in the third inning alone.
While Shepherd (2-for-3, with five RBIs) struck the biggest blow, she had plenty of help. Sierra Petree went 3-for-3 and scored three runs. Sabrina Chandler also crossed home plate three times. Bri Chambers, Brittany Harper and Laura Rodriguez each tallied two-hit, two-run games.
In addition, Henderson even managed to drive in two without the benefit of a hit with a pair of sacrifice flies. When you add the three walks issued by Vrooman and three errors committed by the Winder defense, you have a recipe for a rout.
On the mound, Henderson merely added insult to injury. To say that the sophomore hurler was untouchable would be misleading, since several Winder batters did manage to foul off pitches. Otherwise, Henderson's performance could be aptly described as short, sweet and absolutely perfect.
With the game lasting only three innings due to the home team's 15-plus run cushion, Henderson faced the minimum nine Lady Bulldog batters. She struck out all of them. To give an indication of her dominance, only one Winder batter was able to work her to a two-ball count. The entire game lasted only about 55 minutes.
Needless to say, Eastside head coach Heather Wood was in good spirits after the game. As her team prepares for a tough home stretch of six region games over the final two weeks of the regular season, Wood acknowledged that the Lady Eagles are poised to accomplish what has been their primary objective since the preseason.
"We're still focused on the region right now," Wood said, "but [making the state playoffs] has been one of our main goals all along. We have a great group here, one of the most talented groups we've had."
It would be difficult to argue with that assessment. With an explosive offense, solid defense and a deep starting pitching staff, Eastside appears to have all of the necessary ingredients to make a deep postseason run.