So far, you can call Eastside baseball the county champs.
The Eagles’ juggernaut offense proved to be too much for the Alcovy Tigers, as Eastside rolled on to a 14-4 victory in six innings Tuesday night. It was the second straight victory over an in-county rival in consecutive days.
But despite what the scoreboard said, Eastside coach Bruce Evans lauded Alcovy as a team and program on the rise, while expressing pride in how his Eagles handled the challenge.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Evans said. “That’s a good team we played. We’ve already come a pretty long way since the first game of the season. We’re starting to figure out that when we’re in hitter’s counts, they’ve gotta start swinging the ball. Swing through it instead of not making contact. We’ve gotten a lot better at that.”
Eastside jumped out early with Cole Green bouncing a double off the bottom of the center field fence which scored Austin Holloway to kick-start the Eagles offense. In a blink, Eastside was up 3-0 before Alcovy tightened things with a run in the top of the third inning to chop the lead to 3-1.
But shortly after, a close game would turn out to be another Eastside slug fest led by Holloway, Green and Ryan Shirley.
Holloway had four hits, with Green nipping at his heels with a trio of on-base knocks followed by Shirley’s two.
But it wasn’t just the amount of hits, but the timing of Eastside’s big bats that made the difference. After Alcovy’s top-of-the-third score, the Eagles came back in the bottom half with an RBI double by Green that was a part of a three-run inning to push Eastside up 6-1.
Alcovy would answer again, though, in the top of the fifth when Jake Beasley came in on a sacrifice bunt as one of two runs scored in that inning to pull within three runs going into the bottom half.
It was in that bottom half where Holloway struck again, this time with a double shot to right field that drove in a pair. Green then came up and drove Holloway home with a double of his own. By the time Alcovy got out of the inning, Eastside’s lead was back to 9-3.
Later Josh Sims, returning to his first action since having surgery on his thumb, pushed in another score on a sac bunt to further extend Eastside’s lead.
And Evans said the way way his team responded to each challenge showed their resiliency.
“We just kept answering the call,” Evans said. “We scored every inning except one. They put one up, and we’d answer back with two. They put up another run up, we come back with three. So a lot of times when you do that, when you keep answering the bell like that, you can break the other team’s spirit.”
Eastside had double digit hits for the second straight game. The Eagles knocked 14 one night after recording 15 hits against Newton.
Evans said he likes the depth of his ball club’s bats, and feels like the Eagles’ first five games have shown they should be able to carry the team in most games.
“It’s a good problem to have,” he said. “The other team is gonna score, I keep telling my guys this. But I also tell my pitchers if you can hold them under five runs, we have the kind of hitters who I feel can give us more than five runs to win a ball game.”
Defensively the Eagles held their own, as well, with Tanner Feeney making an incredible catch in left field, robbing Alcovy’s Logan Hinson of an extra base hit early in the game. And Riley Ralston got the win for Eastside on the mound after throwing a complete game and surrendering just four hits.
Ralston threw 11 first-pitch strikes and seemed to keep the Tigers’ timing at the plate off balance with his slider and splitter combination.
Meanwhile, Alcovy pitching seemed to be their achilles heel while giving up the 14 hits, but Tigers coach Ashley Senn also pinned the loss on defensive sloppiness.
“Errors and walks, man,” Senn said. “I mean, walks, and then falling behind on batters early 3-1 and 2-0, so they can gear up for the fast ball. You’ve gotta put it in, so they get hits with runners on base that we put on. And then you get errors, and that’s what happens. If you don’t play D and you don’t pitch, you can’t win. The good thing is, we can fix it. We’ll work on pitching. Work on ground balls, where to cut off and where to throw, and we’ll see what happens.”
Evans feels like he has a good idea as to what will eventually happen to the Alcovy program under Senn who’s just in his second year leading the Tigers.
“The score, to me, doesn’t reflect Alcovy,” Evans said. “They’ve got some darn good baseball players on that team. They’ve got some boys who can hit. I’m very impressed with what Ashley’s doing over there. He’s changed them a lot. They’re a lot better than they were the first time I played them about three years ago. I think they’ve got a good team, and we’re very fortunate to finish this thing up the way we did.”
With the win, Eastside has swept its matchups with the other two county schools so far, although it still has to rematch Alcovy at Alcovy next Thursday. The Eagles, now 4-1 on the season, will play host Wednesday evening at 5:55 p.m. to a Hart County team it defeated 10-4 in their season opener. They’ll get a few days’ break before traveling to Chestatee on Monday.
Alcovy dropped to 1-3 on the season, but will have a chance at redemption with a Thursday game at Hampton, a Saturday doubleheader at Griffin and another matchup with Hampton at home on Monday.
*Ryan Ralston contributed to this report.