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PREP BASEBALL: Eastside uses pitching, defense to shutout Walnut Grove
Ryan Shirley
Eastside pitcher Ryan Shirley dominated on the mound in Thursday night's 1-0 win over Walnut Grove. - photo by Gabriel Stovall

COVINGTON, Ga. — Sometimes, as a team, you deflect talk of revenge games and getting back at a team that beat you, and other times you embrace it. 

For the Eastside Eagles baseball team, Thursday was a night for embracing it. 

The Eagles (9-1, 5-0 in Region 4-AAAA) used a strong pitching performance by Ryan Shirley and squeezed out just enough offense to redeem its only loss of the season by defeating Walnut Grove 1-0 in a home, non-region contest. 

Shirley threw the complete game shutout, surrendering only two hits in 74 pitches, drawing praise from his coach Brandon Crumbley. 

“Man. Ryan Shirley, he did a great job tonight,” Crumbley said. “Seventy-four pitches in seven innings. That’s pretty good. And that’s our M.O. this season. Pitching and defense.” 

And also getting get-back wins against Walnut Grove. 

The Warriors (6-6) handed Eastside it’s lone loss of the season in another 1-0 pitcher’s dual in what was the season opener for both teams. And Crumbley noted that his team wasn’t shy about its desire to provide some payback. 

“We wanted it bad,” Crumbley said. “Our seniors really wanted it. We talked all week about it. We were saying, ‘We want Walnut Grove. We want Walnut Grove.’ So going out on top against them in their senior year, and after they beat us that first game. Yeah, they wanted it real bad.” 

The game was a scoreless tie with both teams missing out on some opportunities to get on the board, until sophomore Noah Cook stepped up and knocked a single that brought home Erik Shirley in the bottom of the fifth inning. 

Eastside appeared to score another run in the bottom of the sixth when Colby Shivers slid into a play at the plate. The umpire called Shivers out though, saying the Walnut Grove catcher’s tag was on time, though it seemed to be a bit high and slightly late. 

Regardless, though Crumbley said he wanted to see the bats come alive and put up a couple more runs on the board, he said he’ll gladly take the win as he’ll take a team that’s won nine straight into Coolray Field Friday night against in-county rival Newton. 

“The bats, that’s one of our biggest things this year,” he said. “We keep telling the guys to get aggressive early in the count. Hit the fastballs. But Walnut Grove did a good job of keeping us off balance all night. In that fifth inning we ran into a few balls, manufactured a couple of good hits and put one across. 

“That’s what it takes when you face good arms. You’ve gotta find a way to put one across, and we did, although it could’ve went the other way.”

After Eastside faces Newton at Coolray Friday night, the Eagles will try to stay perfect in region play as it starts a three-game series with Luella and then Henry County. Crumbley said he feels more than anything that his team’s chemistry and cohesiveness can carry it a long way. 

“This is a loose bunch,” he said. “If they ever get uptight, then we know there’s something wrong. They’re always jumping around and enjoying each other. I love it. I like the energy they have. And they come here every day to work with that energy.”