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Eastside baseball eliminated in close series with Villa Rica
EHS BAseball
Blake Hughes (33) pitched a complete game in Eastside’s game one win over the Wildcats. - photo by Garrett Pitts

VILLA RICA, Ga. — The Eastside Eagles 2024 playoff run ended on the road against Villa Rica in a closely contested series in round one of the Class AAAAA playoffs.

In a series against a team that lost only twice during the regular season, Eastside opened the series with a 4-1 win on the back of a pitching gem from Blake Hughes. 

Game two occurred shortly after game one, and the Wildcats responded. Villa Rica’s bats woke up with a 7-1 win to force a game three on Wednesday.

In game three, both teams went back-and-forth before Villa Rica ultimately came away with the 6-4 win late.

Eagles eliminated in game three heartbreaker

With elimination on the line, the final inning and a half of the series did not disappoint.

The Eagles entered the top of the sixth inning trailing 4-3. 

The inning did not start off on the right footing for Eastside, as Colton Fincher and Payton Shaw were sent down for two outs.

With the Wildcats looking for a one-two-three inning, Dawson Petree shot a double into the right-center gap.

The next at-bat was given to Allen Mills, who was making his first plate appearance of the series. Mills entered the game in the bottom of the fifth after Hughes was moved from first base to catcher, which allowed Mills to take over in the infield.

Facing two strikes and no balls, Mills delivered with an RBI single into center field to score the run and tie the game at 4-4.

Villa Rica limited the damage and enter the bottom half of the sixth with a tie game.

After the first two Wildcats batters were sent back with outs, the miscues began to impact the Eagles.

Following a walk to Henry Brookshire, an error from Eastside shortstop Braydon Smith allowed both runners to reach safely.

In the next at-bat, another ground ball was sent to Smith. This time, Smith grabbed it and made the throw. 

However, Mills could not make the pick at first, which caused the ball to go past him and allow both Villa Rica baserunners to score and give the Wildcats a 6-4 advantage.

Down to their final three outs in the top of the seventh, the Eagles did not go down easy.

Following a pop out to start the frame, Chase Jordan and Brandon Ellis reached base with one out.

In the next at-bat, Hughes lined a ball into right field for a base hit. Jordan tried advancing home on the hit, but was thrown out at the plate to account for the second out.

Fincher grounded out to second in the final at-bat to signal the end of Eatside’s 2024 baseball season.

After a hard-fought game, Eastside head coach Cody Walker felt like his team competed well, but just could not get it done late.

“Even in this game, once you get down you can’t stay down,” Walker said. “[We] stayed scrappy, kept battling, good at-bats. [We] just came up a little short.”

The Wildcats got the scoring started in the third inning on a single from Mason Westmoreland. In the fourth frame, Villa Rica added more on a two-run triple from Cooper Robinson to make it a 3-0 game.

Eastside got all three runs in the fifth frame on back-to-back RBI doubles from Jordan and Ellis.

Shaw began the game for the Eagles and went 3.1 innings. Landon Black and Hughes followed on the mound to account for the remaining 2.2 innings.

Eagles and Wildcats split doubleheader on day one

On day one, Hughes pitched a gem to give Eastside the game one victory.

Hughes pitched a full seven innings and only allowed one run on three hits.

The lone jam that Hughes faced came in the bottom of the sixth inning. With runners on second and third with one out, Villa Rica’s Brady Perry hit a hard line drive to third that looked like a base hit off the bat.

However, Osburn snagged the line drive at third and dove toward third base to tag the runner out for a double play to end the inning.

Walker shared his thoughts about Hughes’ effort not only in the playoffs, but for the whole season.

“This series, but [also] all year, the strides he’s made have been amazing. He is committed to South Georgia State,” Walker said. “He did everything for us this year. Great at first [base], lights out on the mound, highest average at the plate. [I’m] beyond proud of him.”

A sacrifice fly from Brayson Osborn in the second inning gave Eastside the 1-0 lead. In the next at-bat, Isaiah Biggers singled into right field to score another run for the 2-0 advantage.

Villa Rica’s lone run in game one came in the fourth inning. With a runner on third, Zach Pharr doubled to right field to score the run.

Eastside added insurance in the sixth.

Shaw’s double down the left field line allowed Fincher to score all the way from first base. Two at-bats later, Osborn delivered with an RBI double of his own to give Eatside the 4-1 lead.

Despite multiple attempts at a rally, the Wildcats were stifled by Hughes for the rest of game one to give Eastside the win.

In game two, Villa Rica flipped the script.

Though the Eagles out-hit the Wildcats, Eastside still left with a 7-1 defeat.

The Wildcats put five runs on the board in the third inning. Villa Rica’s patience at the plate played a pivotal role in game two. 

In the fifth inning alone, four Wildcat batters reached base via walk or hit-by-pitch.

Villa Rica added two more runs in the fourth frame on a home run from Easton White and a RBI groundout from Pharr.

Eastside’s lone run in game two came Osborn, who hit a solo home run to left field in the bottom of the seventh.

The Eagles season ended with a 14-16 overall record in Walker’s second year as head coach. In Region 8-AAAAA play, Eastside went 6-6.

With a large group of seniors, Walker expressed his gratitude for what they each meant to Eastside’s baseball program.

“Last year was my first group of seniors, but this year was the first group I had an amount of time with,” Walker said. “They are just an all-around great group, I have nothing bad to say about them. They fought hard all the way up to the very end. Everyone of them — whether it was just being a PO or just hitting, just [being a] DH [designated hitter].”