The Region 4-AAAA softball tournament begins on Monday when Eastside (15-9, 10-2 Region 4-AAAA) will host Eagles Landing (13-9, 5-5 Region 4-AAAA) at 7:30 p.m. in a single-elimination game for a chance to play in the the second round in a best two-out-of-three contest to play for the Region Championship.
Last year, Eastside was eliminated from playoff contention after a 7-0 loss to Locust Grove in the first round of the region tournament. Most of last year’s core except for pitcher Madison Hopper are back.
The Lady Eagles still have their two pitching aces in Molly Moon and Catlin Ray. They also have a formidable lineup featuring Ray, Brittany Medlin, Mckenzie “Taz” Powell, Bailey Stewart and Miranda Hopper.
“I think the disappointment we faced last season and being eliminated after region round one will better prepare us for the magnitude of Monday night's game vs. Eagle’s Landing,” Heather Wood, Eastside head coach, said. “I think the players understand the importance and the amount of focus needed to get through round one. We are looking forward to having home field advantage. Our fans have been great this season and we're excited to have the opportunity to play here again.”
The first round of the tournament will be a rematch of a regular season game for the Lady Eagles. In their lone regular season contest, Eastside topped Eagle’s Landing 7-1 on the road.
“I think beating Eagle’s Landing earlier this season gives us the confidence boost we need for Monday,” Wood said. “However, we understand they are a well coached and respected program. It’s important for us to not take them too lightly. We must be consistent on both defense and offense. Right now we are taking it one game at a time.”
Outside of Walnut Grove and Locust Grove, the top two seeds in the Region 4-AAAA tournament, Eastside has dominated the region this year. The Lady Eagles have held each region opponent, other than Walnut Grove, to two runs or less. While Eagle’s Landing has struggled on defense, allowing region opponents to score at least seven runs seven times, Eastside hasn’t.
Eagle’s Landing can put up points, however, and that’s what will determine the winner. If the Lady Eagles’ defense can continue to be as stellar as it has been, it shouldn’t be hard for Eastside to get the win, but if they make errors or Eagle’s Landing picks up offensive momentum it’ll be a tough challenge for Eastside.
The Lady Eagles are junior-heavy with an extremely talented group of seniors, and Wood hopes their leadership will carry them through the post-season.
“We have a great group of seniors,” Wood said. “They have provided tremendous leadership consistently throughout the season. I expect them to continue in post season as we march through 4-AAAA.”