The Eastside Eagles baseball team (21-4 overall, 14-2 Region 4-AAA) won their eighth consecutive game on Tuesday when they hosted the Lovejoy Wildcats.
Lovejoy entered as the Region 4-AAAA champions with an overall record of 19-4. But the now No. 7 ranked Eagles would not be denied in a game that saw seven pitching changes and lasted a little over three hours. Eastside came out on top with a score of 14-11.
Daniel Garrett got the start for Eastside and got touched-up for a run in the first and two in the second against the hard-hitting Wildcats. The Eagles were spotted an early lead as they posted five runs in the first inning without the benefit of a hit as the Lovejoy shortstop mishandled a couple of hard hit balls to open the game and then the Wildcat pitcher had trouble finding the strike zone, walking four in a row.
Tyler Bailey took over the pitching duties for Eastside and pitched a scoreless third inning before getting into a jam in the fourth after a pair of walks, a couple of base hits and a throwing error allowed three runs to cross the plate. Sophomore Peyton Pallay came in to relieve Bailey with two outs in the inning and was able to get the final out, but not before another run scored on second throwing error by the Eagles allowing the Wildcats to take a 7-5 lead going into the bottom of the fourth.
Cody Walker led off the bottom of the fourth with a walk followed by singles from Matt Hitchcock and Keith Buckhault. Walker scored on Buckhault's single, Hitchcock scored on an error by the third baseman and Buckhault would score on a sacrifice fly by Jake Wright.
Gerald Sumner then drew a walk and would score when Tee Sims hit a scorching line drive that hit off the top of the centerfield fence. As the game see-sawed back and forth, Eastside regained the lead at 9-7 going into the top of the fifth.
Jake Wright assumed the pitching duties for the Eagles in the fifth and came away unscathed as he issued two walks sandwiched by three strikeouts. Eastside would build a little cushion in their half of the inning with a leadoff single by Drew Buckhault followed by a triple Walker. Walker scored on an RBI single by Matt Hitchcock.
Keith Buckhault moved the runners over as he put himself on base with a single to left field and Musashi Briem would plate Hitchcock as he reached on a fielder choice.
Wright was solid as he cruised through a scoreless sixth inning for the Wildcats, giving up only a single before striking out the next three batters. In the bottom half of the sixth, the Wildcats continued to help the Eagles build a lead when Jerold Sumner led off with a single before walks were issued to Sims, Garrett, Hitchcock, Buckhault and Wright.
Eastside added another three runs to their lead as Lovejoy struggled to find the strike zone.
With Eastside leading 14-7 going onto the seventh, it was just a matter of closing the door for the Eagles. But senior Jake Wright also began to struggle finding the strike zone as he hit the first batter and walked the next four.
With the score now 14-9 and bases loaded, it was time for another Eastside pitching change. Junior Ty Raynor took the hill and promptly struck out the Wildcat clean-up hitter who was 3 for 4 at that point in the game. Raynor remained in control as he struck the next batter out. Raynor walked in a run to make the score 14-10 with the bases loaded and the tying run coming to the plate.
The Wildcats would score their final run on a wild pitch, dropped third strike but catcher Drew Buckhault would recover the ball and gun down the runner at first to end the game.
Eastside will represent Newton County next week as the lone high school team to advance to the first round of the State playoffs. Their opponent will be the No. 3 seed from Region 3-AAA and is yet to be determined.