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PREP SOFTBALL: Rusk, Burnett lead Eastside to first round sweep
Kailey Rusk
Eastside Eagles pitcher Kailey Rusk was all smiles after belting a home run over the right field fence in game two against the Upson-Lee Knights. Photo by Michael Pope.

COVINGTON, Ga - The Eastside Eagles took the first two games of their three-game series against the Upson-Lee Knights in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs behind outstanding performances on the mound and in the batter's box.

In game one, the Eagles jumped out to an early two-run lead behind RBIs from shortstop Lauren Burnett and third baseman Alysee Dobbs. The Knights would respond with a couple of hits of their own in the top half of the second, but could not bring runs in to score.

This seemed to be an ongoing theme in game one for the Knights. They found ways to get on base, but could not finish the drill and turn hits into runs as they left five runners on base in game one. 

It was just the opposite for the Eagles as the offense exploded in game one for ten runs. They were paced by Burnett, who went 3-for-4 and drove in five runs. They finished with 10 runs on 15 hits in a strong offensive performance in game one. 

With the bats working, the Eagles knew they were in prime position to win with their lights out pitcher Kailey Rusk on the mound. Rusk continued her dominance from the regular season and shut out the Knights in game one. 

Rusk pitched five innings in game one and held the Knights to five hits and one walk with seven strikeouts. With the Eagles offense thriving and pitching at its normal level, they coasted to an easy five-inning game one victory by a score of 10-0.

The Eagles would continue their remarkable run of play and would put their power on display in their second go-around with the Knights. Rusk was back on the mound in game two for the Eagles, but she would make an early statement in the top of the first with her bat.

Rusk hit a high-towering fly ball that sailed over the fence to put the Eagles up two runs early again. Rusk's home run was an absolute no-doubter for many spectators, and she even admitted that she knew it was gone as soon as she hit it.

"It felt so good off the bat like I knew it was gone, and I was like 'Wow!'" Rusk said. "It was kind of sad because it's our last home game, but it was a good ending."

Rusk would continue with her dominant pitching in game two and yet again kept the Knights off the board. She was arguably more dominant in game two as she only allowed two hits and one walk while striking out seven batters again. 

The Eagles continued their hot hitting in game two as they brought in 12 more runs around to score. Burnett continued her outstanding hitting in game two with a two-run home run of her own. Burnett's home run was a little different from Rusk's as she kept her home run inside the park. 

Burnett hit a sharply hit line drive that tailed away from the Knights right fielder and quickly made it to the wall. She sped quickly out of the batter's box and came all the way around to score in the top half of the fifth. 

It ended up being another five RBI performance for Burnett in game two, which gives her a two-game total of 10 RBIs in this first-round series. When asked what lead to Burnett's explosive night at the plate, she credited her patience at the plate. 

"Probably my pitch selection because I only hit my pitches," Burnett said. 

Winning game one 10-0 and game 2 12-0 left Eagles head coach Heather Wood more than pleased to see her offense start off hot and continue their great night at the plate for the duration of both games. After some lackluster performances in their previous games, Wood has been working with her team to make adjustments at the plate and they did just that. 

"When things like that happen and were swinging at good pitches, making plays defensively and Kailey's keeping us in the ball game; we can relax in a good way," Wood said. "I think the way we hit against Hampton and have the last few games that we knew we had to step up and knew we had to adjust."

The Eagles coasted through this first-round matchup, but their road to Columbus gets exceptionally more tough in their second-round matchup.

They will face the defending state champion Heritage Generals on the road in Ringgold, Georgia in a three-game series, with the winner of this series booking their ticket to Columbus. 

They will hope that their hot hitting and shutdown pitching from this series will continue against the Generals.