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Defensive woes cost Eastside in region title game
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JACKSON — Eastside let a golden opportunity to win the Region 4-AAA softball title slip through its fingers Wednesday. Rather, the Lady Eagles let it slip under their gloves.

After topping Locust Grove 7-1 in a spirited effort Tuesday in what amounted to a best-of-three series, Eastside needed a similar performance against the Lady Wildcats Wednesday to claim the championship and a top seed in the Class AAA playoffs. Instead Locust Grove stole a 4-3 win thanks to a bevy of costly Eastside miscues.

The Lady Eagles led 2-0 in the fifth before three errors led to three Locust Grove runs. Eastside battled back with a run in the bottom half of the inning but the Lady Wildcats manufactured a run in the top of the seventh that proved to be the difference.

"It seems to me like whenever we get into a close game or a close situation we seem to just crumble under pressure," Eastside coach Jason Stokes said. "It may be that we just haven’t been in that situation very much. But if you look at the past couple of years, we were up 1-0 and had a no-hitter against Northside and we made a bunch of errors that cost us the game. We did the same things last year at Columbus. It’s crazy."


The wheels started coming off in the fourth. Eastside ace Taylor Causey worked out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam after Megan Hallock committed two errors at shortstop. Causey wasn’t so fortunate in the fifth though.

After a leadoff walk, Causey retired the next batter then gave up a single. The runner moved to third on a wild throw from centerfielder Bianca Reed but Causey stuck out the next batter and looked like she was going to escape a second straight jam. Once again the left side of Eastside’s defense let her down. This time it was a ground ball under third baseman Emily Almand’s glove. Two runners scored on the play. After a single, Causey again got the ground ball she needed to end the inning but again Eastside couldn’t field it and it led to a third unearned run. Just like that, Eastside’s 2-0 lead turned into a 3-2 deficit.

"It seems like our girls don’t want the ball," Stokes said. "We have to change the attitude to, 'I want the ball. Hit me the ball so I can make that last out'. Maybe things will change. I don’t know."

Causey did manage to get out of another bases-loaded jam in the sixth despite yet another error and a hit batsman but she wasn’t the same dominant pitcher who fanned 10 Lady Wildcats the night before. Still, she struck out nine and and made picthes to get out of trouble.

"It looked like she (Causey) was laboring a little bit, having pitched three straight days," Stokes said. "She hasn’t been able to build that stamina up. Still, she kept her composure and made the pitch she needed to, to win the ball game — bottom line. She did what she needed to but we didn’t get enough behind her."

Things started well enough for the Lady Eagles as they were the benefactor of a Locust Grove error in the second inning and took a 1-0 lead. Almand singled to lead off the inning and was forced out at second on Victoria Reich’s grounder. After Jade Welch struck out, Hallock lined a single up the middle that ate the centerfielder up and Reich came all the way around from first to score.

The Lady Eagles added a run on Amanda Hawkins’ tape-measure home run to center in the bottom of the third.

Down 3-2, Eastside scored the tying run on Causey’s single. Reed started the rally with a single before Hawkins drew a walk to put runners at first and second with two outs. Causey stayed hot at the plate with a single to score Reed but Hawkins was caught in a rundown and thrown out at third to end the inning.

Eastside’s defense wasn’t wholly responsible for the loss. The Lady Eagles put a runner on first in both the sixth and seventh innings only to leave them stranded. Reich roped a liner to first for a double play to end the sixth and Erin Steele struck out for the fourth time on the night with Reed at first in the seventh.

"Bianca struggled a little bit and we turned her around and she got a basehit, and Erin struggled tonight, but really, the back half (of the lineup) hadn’t really done anything either," Stokes said. "It’s just been a few hitters."

In reality, Eastside should have been thankful they were even in the game at the end. The Lady Eagles made eight errors on the night — six from the fourth inning on and Locust Grove loaded the bases twice only to come away empty.