COVINGTON, Ga. — Both the Eastside and Alcovy softball teams waited a long time Thursday night to get a glimpse of where they stood against each other in the fledging 2017 season.
After two 30-minute lightening delays and an extended pause due to an injured Alcovy player, the Eagles finally managed a 6-0 win against its in-county rival, giving them their first win of the young season.
Eastside’s victory was a bounce-back from Monday’s narrow 3-2 loss at Monticello, and it gave Eagles head coach, Heather Wood something to feel good about as Region 4-AAAA play looms next week with back-to-back games against Luella.
“We had the weather and everything, but we really just wanted to get this game in because we hadn’t been on the field much all week,” Wood said. “I’m proud of the girls. Coming out with our first home game victory I think will give us momentum going into next week and a confidence boost going into our region schedule.”
Eastside didn’t waste time putting points on the board. The scoring started in the bottom of the first inning when sophomore Jakiryra Lemmons belted a single that drove home Jordan Rittenbacker which added to an earlier score, giving the Eagles a 2-0 lead.
Then in the top of the second, sophomore pitcher Kailey Rusk popped up Emma Waddell and then struck out Holly Batson before consecutive 30-minute lightening delays stopped the action. When the action reconvened, Rusk picked up where she left off, striking out Mackenzie Rodgers and keeping Alcovy off the score board.
Rusk had good control of the pitching circle throughout the game, and Wood called it a good sign that her young pitcher is growing at a good pace.
“Kailey did a great job on the mound tonight,” Wood said. “She was really hitting her spots. She was consistent and I loved her composure. She didn’t allow our defense to work too hard tonight.”
Meanwhile, Eastside’s offense got stronger as the game went on. Rittenbacker smacked a Rodgers pitch to the left field wall in the third inning, and thanks to the combination of her aggressive base running and an Alcovy fielding error, Rittenbacker’s hit turned into an inside-the-park home run, giving Eastside a 3-0 lead.
The flood gates opened a little wider for the Eagles in the bottom of the fourth frame. That’s when a Rusk single set up McKenzie Walker’s triple which brought home pinch runner Samantha Caines. On the very next at-bat, sophomore catcher, Alysee Dobbs pushed out a sharp double that ushered in Walker and then Rittenbacker contributed to the scoreboard again with a double that scored pinch runner Georgia Holmes.
The three-run fourth inning blitz provided the final score, as Rusk capped off a complete game shutout by popping up Alcovy’s Rodgers.
And although Wood stopped short of calling her team’s offensive effort dominant, she said she saw enough to see that her young bats are steadily maturing.
“We didn’t have any big hits, but we’re making better adjustments at the plate,” she said. “We’re young — and really not so much young, as we’re inexperienced with girls who haven’t played a lot of varsity baseball.”
She did point out, however, that Rittenbacker’s offensive output through the offseason and first two games has caught her eye.
“Jordan, she has definitely hit well for us,” she said. “She’s come up with big hits, and she’s doing it on two strikes. That’s really huge. Her bat is really coming around, which is why we put her at the No. 4 spot. She’s hitting the ball, making contact and just seeing it really well.”
As for Alcovy, first-year coach Kelli Wesley was upbeat despite her team’s loss. The fact that several of Eastside’s runs were results of Alcovy fielding errors made Wesley believe her team is just a few mental errors away from competing on a high level.
“We’re still a young team, and we’re still trying different people at different positions to get a feel for what’s going to work for us in the future,” Wesley said.
The Tigers showed themselves to be a fairly well coached team at times, particularly on defense. One example came in the bottom of the sixth when Alcovy turned a textbook double play to help get them out of the ending without giving up more runs.
But then there was the other side of the coin, where communication errors resulted in Eastside scores. Like with two outfielders bumped into each other while trying to field what should’ve been a pop fly. A similar miscue happened between the second basemen and Rodgers, the pitcher.
“In those plays, our girls were doing what we ask them to do, which is be aggressive,” Wesley said. “But sometimes we can be too aggressive, and then other times we aren’t aggressive enough. We fall apart at times with just not being mentally tough, but once again, it goes back to correcting our errors, not looking back and dwelling on things, as we get ready for region play next week.”
But Wesley also mentioned the strength of players like junior Lanie Knight.
“Lanie has been one of the most consistent players we’ve had in this program for a while now,” Wesley said. “She’s gone the last few consecutive games with at least two base hits, including tonight. She’s valuable to us.”
Alcovy (1-2) will start Region 3-AAAAAA play Thursday August 17 when it hosts Lakeside at 5 p.m. But before that, the Tigers will host Rockdale in a double header on Monday and its other in-county rival, Newton, on Tuesday.
Eastside (1-1) will welcome Luella on Tuesday, then travel to Luella (0-2) Thursday and then to Morgan County (1-0) next Friday.