CONYERS, Ga. — Seven innings was not enough to decide the outcome of the season opener for the Eastside Eagles.
The Eagles took down the Rockdale County Bulldogs with a score of 14-12 Wednesday night in the first game of the NewRock Classic — a contest that was back and forth all night long. Each team traded the lead multiple times, and they spent the majority of the game all tied up.
Eastside’s Ethan Booth was finally able to break the tie in the top of the 8th with a single that bounced slowly enough that the runner going from third to home and Booth were both safe.
Booth’s single gave the Eagles the late 13-12 lead and a single by Jordan Watts supplied the Eagles a helpful insurance run to give them a two-run lead heading into the bottom half of the 8th inning.
Noah Cook came in from shortstop to close out the game, and after giving up a walk, he shut down the opposition to secure the Eagles’ victory. Eagles head coach Brandon Crumbley was surprised by both teams’ offensive explosion, and knows that his team has some improvements to make.
“You normally expect a pitcher’s duel, but not tonight,” Crumbley said. “Twenty-six runs between the two of us, it was fun. It was a good game, but we got a lot to clean up, a lot to work on. We have got to take care of the baseball better.”
Four errors, multiple dropped third strikes, passed balls and wild pitches led to a lot of free bases for the opposition, and Crumbley reiterated how important it is to take care of the baseball, but he knows that working out the kinks this early in the season is a work in progress.
“It just takes time,” he said. “We haven’t been on the field all week because of the weather. So just field time and playing too, once we get into the daily routine of Monday, Wednesday, Friday you clean that stuff up.”
The free bases led to a number of runs scoring that probably would not have scored with clean play. Although 12 runs were given up on the scoreboard, Crumbley was still very pleased with his pitching staff.
“(Jackson Feeney) threw well,” he said. “If we take care of the ball behind you and we make a play here or there, you come out of this thing and give up maybe one or two runs. He pitched well. Jackson did a good job. He’s a worker and he’s his biggest critic. He was disappointed with his effort, but he’ll come in tomorrow and get his work in and he’ll be fine.”
Pitcher Brayden Downs followed Feeney and had a solid night of his own as Crumbley said that the work that he put in over the summer was apparent on the mound Wednesday night.
“He absolutely worked his tail off this summer and it showed. I mean he pitched as well as anybody tonight, really the best. He pitched well and he’s worked really hard. I’m really proud of him and what he’s done to get where he’s at.”
The Eagles’ offensive explosion was a shock, but a welcome surprise for their head coach. Crumbley said that the defense is the number one concern, but knows that it will come.
If the Eagles match their defense and pitching on the same level as their hitting Wednesday night, they could be on track for a very successful season.
Eastside will travel back to Rockdale Saturday for doubleheader action as it will play a rematch with the Bulldogs and then square off with Heritage in day two of the NewRock Classic.