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Eastside headed for rubber match
Ashleigh Williams looks to lay down a bunt against North Oconee.

Eastside softball met North Oconee in the second round of the state playoffs in a best-of-three series, but couldn’t finish the sweep as the series is tied at 1-1 heading into Thursday’s rubber match at home at 6p.m.

The Lady Eagles and the Lady Titans were stagnant on offense through the first five innings in the opening contest, but Eastside came alive in the bottom of the sixth inning. Brittany Medline started the inning off with a double and she was moved to third by a sac-bunt from Madison Hopper.

Medlin would score when senior Bailey Stewart blasted a shot to left-center for an RBI double. McKenzie Powell followed with a double of her on to score another run and give the Lady Eagles a 2-0 lead that held heading into the seventh inning.

North Oconee’s Madison Reynolds began the inning with a double, but a resilient Eastside defense would get a 5-1-6 double play when Reynolds tried to steal third on the following hit. Two batters later and the Lady Titans had runners at the corners. Hannah Emerson would score on a passed ball to bring the game within one score, but Eastside’s Catlin Ray forced a pop out to end game one with a 2-1 victory for the Lady Eagles.

Game two was much closer and went into extra innings.

Eastside struck early and Coley Edwards scored on a ground rule double from Taylor Baggett to put the Lady Eagles up 1-0, which lasted until the bottom of the seventh inning.

With two outs, a Katie foote double to center tied the game and Eastside was forced into extra innings.

In extra innings, each team starts off with a runner on second base.

McKenzie Walker started on second for Eastside. She was moved to third on a sac-bunt by Baggett and she scored on a stand-up triple from Ashleigh Williams, giving Eastside a 2-1 lead.

Ray, giving her all for her team, looked fatigued having pitched two games – 14 innings total. Her throws that weren’t strikes were errant and were either too high or in the dirt. A Lady Titan runner scored on a passed ball and the game went into the ninth inning despite Ray striking out each Lady Titan batter she faced in the eighth.

“Throughout the season we’ve been able to rotate with Molly [Moon]. Now [Ray] is having to push through, and this is not something we’re used to playing back-to-back. I’m proud of Cati I think that she is stepping up for her teammates and doing well on the mound, but going that many innings does wear on a pitcher,” Heather Wood, Eastside head coach, said about Ray who’s having to pitch two straight games because Molly Moon is out for the season with a knee injury.

Eastside’s offense couldn’t do anything in the top of the ninth inning, and it cost the Lady Eagles. On the first at-bat Caroline hit a shot to deep left-center to score Shelby Thomas and earn the walk-off win for North Oconee, 3-2.

“Right now we’re talking to our players more about using that as your motivation for tomorrow,” Wood said. “I want them to get upset. I want them to be not disappointed in themselves, but just more of using that as motivation – the way they celebrated and the way they pretty much kept us from going to Columbus that one game. I’m hoping that’s something that they’ll feed off of for tomorrow.”

Eastside will host North Oconee in a winner-takes-all game tomorrow at 6 p.m.