It won’t be spring break anymore, but the Eastside Eagles are getting a week’s worth of practice time and rest from games at just the right time.
After battling through weather delays and postponements due to last week’s bout with severe weather, the Eagles entered into a three-game series with a talented Luella squad, and ended up dropping all three games — the latest loss being a 12-5 setback to the Lions this past Friday.
In that game, it was Josh Sims getting the start and Eastside pushing out fast to a 3-0 lead that Sims and company were able to sustain until the sixth inning when Luella tied things at three.
Cole Green would come in for relief, and then the floodgates opened for Luella as the Lions scored eight runs in the inning to build an insurmountable lead.
It was the first time coach Bruce Evans’ bunch dropped three straight all season. But despite that fact, Evans said he is more than pleased with where his ballclub is right now.
"On the season, we have exceeded expectations," Evans said. "We lost six seniors last year that were a huge part of our team. We have started three freshmen in a lot of games. Josh Sims pitched great for six innings (in the last Luella game) and got tired at the end, which is to be expected since that's as deep as he has been."
Evans said that the top-heavy rigor of a Region 4-AAAA that includes Woodward Academy (15-4, 10-1), Luella (11-7, 10-2) and even a very competitive Druid Hills squad, but little else in terms of competition makes things tough.
"Our region hurts us a lot because you have four competitive teams and the others are awful," Evans said. "We can't get our pitchers in shape because we only play three innings against a lot of those teams. Luella beat us because they out hit us and got hits when it counted. They have a lot of seniors that refuse to get beat at the plate. Our guys played well. Luella just played better."
Key region series starts with doubleheader
The Eagles began the three-game stint against Luella with a doubleheader at Luella last Tuesday evening. the Game one turned out to be a battle of two hard-nosed teams vying for region positioning in a pair of grind-it-out ball games.
The Lions came out swinging and captured the lead in the first inning by scoring three runs off of three hits. It wasn’t until the third inning that Eastside would answer, but when it did, it was Josh Sims and Cole Green generating the offense at the plate with hits that drove home runs.
Riley Ralston got the nod to start the game for the Eagles on the mound, but had to leave with soreness in his right elbow after just two innings of work wherein he threw 38 pitches with 22 of those being strikes.
Erik Shirley came in as a reliever and threw three shut-out innings for the Eagles up until the fifth. The Lions opened the flood gates in the fifth, scoring two runs off hits by Matt Collins and Jordan Jackson. Shirley threw 49 pitches over three innings with 31 strikes. Michael Hipps then entered the game in the sixth inning as the closer for the Eagles.
Hipps gave up two runs during his inning of work which put comfortable distance between the two squads. Both teams hit well, with the Lions connecting for 10 hits and the Eagles eight. Colby Shivers, Sims and Austin Holloway each collected multiple hits, followed by Caleb Sauls with one. However, the Eagles stranded seven base runners, which ultimately proved to be the deciding factor in the 7-2 loss.
After dropping game one, Eastside tried to refocus and come out to a fast start in the rubber match. In the first inning Colby Shivers unloaded on the Lions, driving in two runs.
A pitcher’s duel then ensued with Ryan Shirley taking the mound for the Eagles and dominating for the next three innings, holding the Luella scorelesso. It was not until the fifth inning that the Lions eventually tied the game at 2, when Jackson hit a sacrifice fly off of Shirley.
In the second game, the Eagles offense was led by Cole Green, who went 2-for-3 at the plate with a triple, followed by Caleb Sauls and Jackson Watts with one base hit each. However, in game two the Eagles were plagued by four fielding errors and struggled to advance base runners once in scoring position.
Cole Green entered the game in the 7th inning as a reliever for Shirley and, thanks to several errors, quickly found himself in a bases loaded jam. Green buried a breaking ball in the dirt that somehow managed to sneak past Holloway at catcher, allowing the Lions’ base runner to advance home. The score was enough to hand Eastside a 3-2 loss, dropping its record to 16-7 overall and 9-6 in Region 4-AAAA.
After a bye week wherin Eastside will rest from practice on Monday and Tuesday, the Eagles will hit the field again to take on Salem in a three-game region series. As it stands, Eastside still holds down the third place spot in the region.