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PREP BASEBALL: Eastside passes final test before crucial region series with Woodward
riley ralston
Riley Ralston gets set to receive the pitch from Henry County that would turn into a grand slam homer for Eastside Friday night. - photo by Matthew Grimes

COVINGTON, Ga. — When the Eastside Eagles hosted the Henry County Warhawks in a region double header Friday night, they did so, not only hoping to increase a 14-game winning streak, but to also prepare for their highly anticipated matchup against Woodward Academy next week, which will decide first place in the region.

The Eagles handled Henry County in run-rule fashion in both games winning the first 14-0, and the second 15-0.

The first game was highlighted by a shutout pitching performance from Eastside’s Noah Cook and Lawson Beshears, and an unrelenting offensive onslaught. 

In comparison to the way it finished, Eastside got off to a pedestrian start in game one, taking a 2-0 lead after the first inning, then adding on two more in the second inning, stretching the lead to 4-0. 

In the third inning, the bats came alive. 

Erik Shirley led off the third stanza with what appeared to be a routine double, but after some fortuitous bounces, Shirley turned it into an inside-the-park home run. In addition, Henry County allowed five walks in the inning, which gave way to the Eagles posting six runs in the top of the third. That stretched their lead to 10-0 at the end of three.

Jackson Watts
Eastside used a strong pitching performance from Jackson Watts, pictured, among others in doubleheader routs of region foe Henry County Friday night. - photo by Matthew Grimes

In the top of the fourth, Beshears took over for Cook who had been lights-out through three innings. Beshears walked three in the inning but evened it out by striking out three to retire the side.

 In the bottom of the fourth, the Eagles quickly loaded the bases courtesy of two singles and a walk. With the bases jacked, senior Riley Ralston walked up to the plate, took a swing, and launched the ball over the left field wall for a grand slam, increasing the Eagles’ lead to 14-0, and consequently ending the game due to the mercy rule. 

Game two wasn’t much different, except the Eastside bats didn’t wait around to get going. After a three-up-three-down inning from pitcher Jackson Watts, the Eastside hitters opened the flood gates on the Warhawks and tallied eight runs in the second. 

Up 8-0, Watts had plenty of room for error on the mound, but decided to make quick work of Henry County by striking out the first two batters with curveballs, and forcing a tapper to catcher Tanner Middlebrooks for the third out. 

The bottom of the second was more of the same from the Eastside offense as it tacked on six more runs in the inning. 

In the third and final inning for Watts, he faced three batters and retired them all in succession. Watts ended the evening pitching three perfect innings, striking out six of the nine batters he faced. Although he was stellar on the mound, he also excelled at the plate. 

In the bottom of the third, after a single and two walks, he smacked a triple down the left field line. It cleared the bases and ended the game with a 15-0 score. 

Afterwards, head coach Brandon Crumbley acknowledged the importance of these two wins, but also expressed a determination to not allow his team to rest on its laurels. 

 “We’re not done yet,” Crumbley said. “We’re ready (for Woodward Academy). It’s like a dog in a cage. We are ready to rip the door open and let [the boys] go.”

Eastside (16-1, 11-0 in Region 4-AAAA) will open next week by hosting Woodward (11-3, 8-0) Monday with first pitch slated for 5:55 p.m. Eastside will then travel to College Park Wednesday, also starting at 5:55 p.m., before finishing the series at Eastside Friday. 

Similarly to how Eastside lost its first game of the season and hasn’t lost since, Woodward has bounced back from an 0-3 start to rip off 10 straight wins.