Eastside can't help to feel like it let one get away. That one would be the Region 4-AAA softball title and a No. 1 seed in next week's state playoffs.
After fumbling away their first opportunity to claim the championship Wednesday with an error-laden 4-3 loss to Locust Grove, the punchless Lady Eagles offered little resistance to the Lady Wildcats Thursday in a 4-0 shutout.
Eastside can take solace in the fact that they are returning to the Class AAA playoffs as a No. 2 seed for the second straight year and fifth overall. But Wednesday's loss certainly resonates as a missed opportunity.
"We should have taken care of business last night. We wouldn't have been in this situation," Eastside coach Jason Stokes said. "I told the girls we really didn't play that bad of a game tonight. We came back and played decent. We just didn't take advantage of certain situations today. You have to tip your hat to them."
After touching up Locust Grove ace Amanda Winters in a 7-1 win Tuesday, Eastside was unable to handle the southpaw two days later. The Lady Eagles mustered just four hits against her - three from Victoria Reich, and Winters had much better command than she did in the first matchup.
"Vick (Reich) had to solid swings and Amanda (Hawkins) had one early but other than that, we didn't really square her (Winters) up," Stokes said. "When we did get the bat on the ball, it was with nobody on base. The time we beat her, she walked a lot of people. She had better control tonight."
Conversely the Lady Eagles were without their ace as Taylor Causey was rested after pitching three straight days. Causey has only pitched in a handful of games since returning from an injury that shelved her most of the regular season.
Causey did enter in the fifth inning with two runners on but was ineffective. She hit the first batter she faced then gave up a sacrifice fly and a two-run double before yielding to Katie Fletcher who finished the game.
The fifth inning proved to be the difference. Up 1-0, Locust Grove manufactured a run before the big two-run double.
Stokes tweaked his lineup to have Hawkins lead off and early on, it looked like he may have found something. Hawkins ripped a double to start the game and moved to third before Causey popped out and Emily Almand grounded out to end the threat.
Eastside got its leadoff hitter on in the second as well when Reich singled. But the Lady Eagles wouldn't get another hit until Reich came back up two innings later.
"I liked what I saw," Stokes said. "We were really excited about the lineup before the game. I think it puts us in some good situations and I may decide to try it again."
The loss means the Lady Eagles will again likely need to beat a No. 1 seed to reach the Elite Eight at Columbus. Eastside defeated top-seeded Worth County a year ago as the No. 2 seed to make it.
"We are in the same exact situation we were in last year with the No. 2 seed," Stokes said. "We'll host next week and hopefully take care of business and we'll probably have to travel somewhere so that's what we have ahead of us."
Despite the two losses and tinkering of the lineup, Stokes said his team will shake off the disappointing end to the tournament. He added he isn't looking to reinvent the wheel heading into the state playoffs.
"We aren't going to change much up," Stokes said. "I think we're playing well. We have to work on a few things this week. We have to work on our bunting in key situations and of course we'll take a lot of groundballs. But we'll go about our business as usual."