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Eastside finds pitching strength in back-to-back wins last week
Eastside's Ryan Shirley has emerged as a dependable arm in the revamped Eagles' bullpen. - photo by Submitted Photo | The Covington News

After dropping an 13-2 decision to Walnut Grove back on February 15, the Eastside Eagles have since ripped off five straight impressive wins – including two on back-to-back nights this past week – to push their record to 7-1 before starting region play Monday at Druid Hills.

One of those games was a 5-2 win at Chestatee in Gainesville, and the other, a 4-1 triumph Thursday night at Alcovy.

And in that pair of games, Eastside managed to reinforce two themes that have been constants so far this season. First: It perhaps removed all doubt about the validity of its starting pitching.

That’s because two aces have seemingly emerged from coach Bruce Evans’ revamped bullpen in the form of juniors Ryan Shirley and Riley Ralston. Both pitchers have consistently maintained a commanding level of maturity while effectively shutting down their opponents’ bats.

Second: The Eagles have proven that hitting may not be a problem for them, as Austin Holloway, along with Cody Moody, Cole Green, Tanner Feeney , Shirley, Sonny Vargas, and Ralston, have consistently rocked opposing pitchers at the plate.

From the mound, it was Ralston got the call to start, and his poise shone through as  threw a complete game, holding the War Eagles to just two runs over seven innings, with only one earned run.

Ralston baffled the War Eagles with his steady combination of sinkers, sliders, fastballs and change-ups. Offensively, Holloway, Green, Ralston, and Vargas served up a steady diet of timely hits that positioned Eastside runners to score in what was a fairly closely contested ballgame.  

The win at Chestatee was a perfect complement to what Eastside was able to do Thursday night at Alcovy which made it decidedly harder on the Eagles to come away with a win than in its earlier 14-4 loss.

In that game, after going five innings with little activity, the visiting Eagles stepped up the momentum in the last two innings to shift things in their favor.

At the top of the sixth inning, Eastside’s Sonny Vargas walked to first base after battling it out with Alcovy pitcher Dalton Smith. He then stole second base as Austin Holloway was at bat.

Holloway won his battle with Smith and walked to first base as well. Both Vargas and Holloway advanced one base with a sacrifice from Cole Green, and they were plated by a Ryan Shirley triple, giving Eastside a 2-0 lead.

The Tigers (2-6) responded with a run of their own at the bottom of the sixth inning. Jacob Spivey, who was first at bat, hit a single. He then advanced to second base and stole third base. Spivey crossed the home plate with a Chandler Hicks single, bringing the score to 2-1.

To secure an Eastside victory, Tanner Feeney hit a single straight through centerfield and then stole second and third base while Riley Rolston was at bat. Tigers’ defense almost caught Feeney between third base and home plate. He later was safely plated by Ralston, padding a 3-1 score.

Ralston scored the Eagles’ final run as he hit a single, stole second base and advanced to third and home plate from a sacrifice from Lawson Beshears and a single from Holloway.

Alcovy couldn’t respond at the bottom of the seventh inning.

Eastside had three hits and four errors, while Alcovy had five hits and two errors.

In the first five innings, Alcovy spent more time on offense, with more of their players advancing beyond first base.  Vargas was the only Eastside player to make it to first base safely in the first five innings. He was able to walk to first base from a ball count at the top of the third inning.

Alcovy was able to get Spivey, in the first inning, to third base before getting three outs. They were also able to get Smith, in the third inning, to third base before receiving three outs. HIcks, in the fourth inning, failed to steal second and third base as the ball beat him to third.