COVINGTON, Ga. — For the second season in a row, the Eastside Eagles softball team has taken the throne as the Region 4-AAAA champs, defeating Luella 10-1 in a dominant five innings Wednesday night.
“I’m proud of these girls for all of their region victories throughout this season,” said head coach Heather Wood. “It was a big game for us. The win is not only great for our school and program, but we knew this would put us in a better position going into the first round of the state playoffs.”
The first inning was a scoreless one on both sides. Although sophomore pitcher Kailey Rusk threw two strikeouts to give the Eagles a chance to strike first, two flyouts and a groundout would take the Eagles and Lions to the second with no runs.
The second inning, however, would be where the Eagles' bats would take off.
After three more strikeouts from Rusk ended the top of the second, the hits poured on as Eastside went through their entire line up, hitting everything the Lions threw their way. When the barrage of bat cracking hits was over, the Eagles had built a commanding 5-0 lead.
“I thought we did a really good job making adjustments off the pitcher,” Wood said. “We performed well with situational hitting, which is something we struggled with at times throughout the season. Everyone executed, and I was proud of the girls for that.”
They would accomplish the feat of hitting through their line up once again in the bottom of the fourth with monster hits from almost all of the players, including a triple from senior McKenzie Walker to expand their lead to 10-1.
Earlier in the top half of the inning, Luella would get on the board for their first and only run of the game. However, they found themselves with the bases loaded and two outs before Rusk would deliver a strikeout to escape the inning with only one run given up.
Rusk’s eight total strikeouts in the game are why coach Wood will depend on her greatly in the playoffs.
“She (Rusk) has really stepped up for us,” Wood said. “She’s been consistent throughout the season, so I expect her to carry us as we move forward.”
Rusk said she is used to the pressure and is looking forward to continuing playing with her team in the extended season.
“I feel very confident that I will do well on the mound,” she said. “I have had a lot of pressure on me in the past and I think I can handle it.”
Rusk also noted that it means a lot to be back-to-back region champs and emphasized the importance of clinching the No. 1 seed for their region in the playoffs.
And while the championship win is sweet now, Wood is now getting her team ready to potentially make a run in the playoffs, noting there is one overall improvement that needs to be made heading into the postseason.
“We just have to make sure we stay as a competitive unit,” she said. “At times, we have been competitive, but we need to do it consistently as well as have an understanding of how to be a playoff team. We have a lot of new players, and we want them to be able to get that postseason experience, but also to be able to handle it as well.”
Eastside will be hosting the Region 3-AAAA 4th seed team at home next Wednesday in a best-of-three first round state tournament series.