Bruce Evans was in no mood to discuss moral victories and play cheerleader Monday night. Not after the way his Eastside baseball team came up short against Woodward Academy.
The Eagles fell to Woodward 5-4 in the first game of a three-game series which matches the top two teams in Region 4-AAAA in a contest that featured four Eastside fielding errors that helped produce four of the War Eagles’ five runs.
“It’s tough when you give it away like that,” Evans said. “They scored four runs off of ground balls that should’ve been caught. We had an error at third, an error at second, a throwing error at short. If they don’t do that, Woodward probably doesn’t score those runs, and that’s not our way of playing.”
It still had to be encouraging for Eastside to know that even after all those miscues, the Eagles still had a chance to win in the bottom of the seventh inning.
After Woodward’s Payton Christensen knocked an RBI single that brought Ryan Glass in, the War Eagles exited the top of the seventh with a 5-3 lead. But when Eastside went to work at the plate, it looked as if things were coming together for a ninth hour rally.
First, it was Sonny Vargas who drew a walk from Woodward’s sidearm throwing pitcher Jordan Sayles. Then Austin Holloway belted a single past third base and deep into left field which moved Vargas to second. After a Josh Sims single, Cole Green drove in Vargas on a single shot almost in the exact same place as Holloway’s to cut Woodward’s lead to 5-4.
That’s when Ryan Shirley stepped to the plate after Woodward brought in Mason Carnes as a closer to relieve Sayles. But it was then that Eastside’s offense stalled out.
Shirley grounded out, Cody Moody walked and then Colby Shivers struckout for the game’s final out.
And Evans said that while he could appreciate his hitters trying to wait for the best pitches, he also felt a little combination of fear and inexperience kept the Eagles from being aggressive when they most needed it.
“We had guys up there who were nervous,” Evans said. “And some of them were not all freshman, either. I don’t know if our guys ever thought they couldn’t play with (Woodward), but I think some of them were wanting someone else in the batter’s box to hit the ball. We had guys standing up there scared to swing and would rather take a walk. But we’ve got big hitters right there who need to hit.
“We don’t put them in the middle of the order to let them watch pitches. If they get a belt-high fastball they need to try and turn that thing into runs.”
Eastside found themselves needing to play catch up early on, as Woodward shot out to a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. The first came when Woodward’s Ryan Glass knocked a single that should’ve been easily handled at third base, but got away into the outfield, allowing Darien Wiggins to score.
In the bottom of the first, Eastside began to quickly mount its answer. Holloway and Sims both singled to lead off for the Eagles, and then Green doubled to drive home Sims, cutting the lead to 2-1. After the first couple of innings, Sims — who got the start on the mound Monday night — began to settle in after a rocky start.
Sims found his rhythm with the curve and fanned the first two Woodward batters in the second inning and Holloway closed out the top of the second when he popped up quickly from behind the plate to throw out a Woodward base runner who was trying to get to second.
Woodward wouldn’t score again until a two-run fourth inning gave it a 4-1 lead. Eastside got back into it, however, when Riley Ralston drove Shirley home. Then after a solid defensive performance during the top of the fifth, Green’s sac fly brought Holloway home, but Woodward still clung to a 4-3 lead. They would score one more run in the top of the seventh before setting up the late game drama.
Evans said his team was visibly upset by Monday night’s loss, and he wasn’t going to do much to try and talk them out of it.
“This one hurts, so it ain’t a lot of cheerleading right now,” Evans said. “It hurts them, and it should. It hurts me. It hurts our coaches. We wanna this game now. You play baseball at Eastside to play in games like this. I told them that’s why they’re in here. We expect to win this game. We turned the corner last year. We’re done with that turning the corner stuff. We expect to win these kind of games.”
Eastside will get another crack at the War Eagles Wednesday at Woodward in a game scheduled for a 5:55 p.m. first pitch. And as far as Evans is concerned everything Eastside wanted heading into this game is still ahead of them.
“The way I look at it, their No. 1 pitcher didn’t beat us,” Evans said. “We saw their best. They gave us all they had, and if we don’t kick it around, we beat them. We just didn’t make a play when we needed to. But we go back to work tomorrow. We ain’t out of it. We came in saying the worst thing that could happen is to win two of three, and the best thing to happen is to win all three. So we’re gonna go out to their place to try and get back in this thing.”