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STATE SOFTBALL: Eastside draws Class AAAA's top-ranked team Thursday in Columbus
Eastside Softball
The Eastside Eagles will return to Columbus for the Elite Eight round of the Class AAAA state tournament after a thrilling victory over Spalding in a deciding Game 3 that saw extra innings. - photo by Gabriel Stovall

COVINGTON, Ga. – The Eastside softball team already knew the “where” of its next state tournament game. Now it knows exactly the “when” and the “who.”

With a Game 3, 2-1 extra-innings win over Spalding Thursday in the Sweet 16 round of the Class AAAA state tournament, the Lady Eagles punched their first ticket to the Elite Eight round in Columbus since the 2010 season.

Their opponent in Columbus this Thursday? Class AAAA’s No. 1 rated NW Whitfield squad.

The Lady Bruins (29-5, 11-4 in Region 6-AAAA), have won five of its six state tournament games thus far, including a first round sweep of Troup County and a hotly contested Sweet 16 series on the road at Jefferson, where all three games were decided by a combined five runs. NW Whitfield defeated Jefferson 4-3 Thursday in the decisive Game 3.

Whitfield boasts a solid stable of pitchers, with the trio of juniors Cara and Anna Grace Rann and sophomore Shaylen Sutton. But Eastside’s enjoyed some strong pitching of its own with sophomore Kailey Rusk and junior Dani Fairey pacing the Lady Eagles from the circle.

Rusk was stellar in Thursday’s high-pressure situation, striking out 12 Spalding batters in the win.

Eastside will face NW Whitfield Thursday at the Columbus Softball Complex with first pitch scheduled for 5 p.m. on Field No. 6. If it wins, coach Heather Wood’s squad will take on the winner of Stephens County and Northside-Columbus on Thursday at 9 p.m.

If Eastside loses, it’ll play from the loser’s bracket against the loser of Stephens County-Northside on Friday at noon. Whitfield captured the Class AAAA state crown in 2012 and 2013. The Bruins lost to Oconee County in last year’s state tournament in the first round.