Eastside coach Bruce Evans had already seen his Eagles defeat Druid Hills, but Evans wanted to see a win in his team’s region home opener to solidify the feelings he’s had about the Eagles’ strong start.
After an impressive 10-1 win, two days after beating the Red Devils 12-4 on the road, Evans got just what he wanted.
“Well, you know, this region is gonna be this way,” Evans said. “I say it all the time, that it’s a difficult thing to beat a team two times, and we did that tonight. But it’s very, very difficult to beat a team three times. We’ll have to try to do that at their place Friday.”
But on Wednesday night, In a game where Druid Hills never really threatened, Eastside did show some grit in a critical moment.
Starting pitcher Riley Ralston left the game with an injury the top of the fifth inning, with Eastside up 7-0. But when Ralston departed, freshman Eric Shirley inherited a bases loaded with no outs situation.
After walking his first batter which brought home Druid Hill’s loan run, Shirley would recover nicely, tossing a strikeout and then forcing a ground out against consecutive batters to get Eastside out of a jam.
The Eagles were never really pushed again, and Evans said Eric Shirley’s clutch relief pitching is something he’s come to expect from his junior, the twin brother of fellow hurler Ryan.
“Eric’s done that all year for us,” Evans said. “We’ve had to bring Eric in in some key situations, you know. When we had Walnut Grove and it was like 5-1 or 5-2, we brought him in there with bases loaded, and I felt like he should’ve struck out the first guy, but they called a ball. But he struck out the next guy. So, yeah, he’s been in some big situations. He’s really good, and he’s gonna have to throw a lot for us this year.”
Along side the solid pitching of Ralston and Eric Shirley, were a bunch of bats that didn’t take long to warm up.
After Druid Hills went three-up-three-down to begin the game, Eastside’s Austin Holloway started things off in the bottom of the first with a double, thanks to a Druid Hills fielding error. Josh Sims would then come up and belt a single to right field, which brought Holloway home for a 1-0 Eastside lead.
After a two-inning stalemate, Eastside went to work again with Cole Green taking a walk and Ryan Shirley knocking a single. Green was tagged out on his way to second, but Shirley would eventually move to second base on a Druid Hills wild pitch.
That’s when Cody Moody stepped to the plate and smacked a double that drove in Shirley. Later in the inning, a Ryan Ralston single would help score another run, and then designated hitter Sonny Vargas’ ripped the 3-1 pitch to right field which ushered in two more runs. The big third inning stretched the Eagles’ lead to 5-0.
It was 7-0 at the end of the fourth inning with Sims scoring on a wild pitch and Green crossing home plate on a Ryan Shirley single. Then some new blood got into the act in the bottom of the fifth when Noah Cook smacked a double to far left for his first varsity base hit. Stone Patterson would drive him home on the next at-bat.
Eastside added another pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth to provide the final score.
The win pushed the Eagles to 9-1 overall and 2-0 in Region 4-AAAA, also giving them a 2-0 lead in the series against the Red Devils. Druid Hills fell to 2-6 and 0-2 in the region. Eastside will try to secure the sweep Friday at Druid Hills, and then will get a few days rest before beginning a region series against North Clayton next week.
Evans hopes the rest will prove beneficial for players like Ralston, who left in the top of the fifth inning after he told Evans he was having some soreness in his rotator cuff. But before the reprieve, Evans said he wants to finish off the Druid Hills series right.
“In the case of a team like Druid Hills, where I feel like we’re probably the better team, if you keep beating them two or three times, pretty soon they get tired of getting beat,” Evans said. “And then our boys might start feeling like all they’ve gotta do is show up and win. So it starts tightening up.
“I’m a little concerned about going up there Friday where it could be a bit of a trap game. I hope our guys stay focused and realize that game is just as important as any other in the region.”