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STATE SOFTBALL: Eastside plays waiting game to discover next opponent after sweep of Columbus
Jordan Rittenbacher
Eastside's Jordan Rittenbacher provided the Lady Eagles plenty of power at the plate during their first round sweep of Columbus in the Class AAAA state tournament. -photo by Sydney Chacon

COVINGTON, Ga. — At times it wasn’t pretty, but the Eastside Eagles recorded a two-game sweep of Columbus in Tuesday’s best-2-of-3 first round Class AAAA state tournament series, winning game one 3-2 and finishing off the Blue Devils with a 16-9 route in game two.

Junior pitcher Kailey Rusk recorded wins in both games, and finished game two with six strikeouts, despite tough bottom fourth where she and the Lady Eagles allowed Columbus eight runs to turn an 11-1 deficit into close, 11-9 ball game heading into the fifth inning. 

“This is probably the highest scoring game I’ve ever been a part of,” Eastside coach Heather Wood say regarding the game two victory. 

It got higher going into the next frame when Dani Fairey smacked an inside-the-park home run ball into right field that also drove in Ava Anglin, extending Eastside’s lead to 13-9. In the bottom of the frame, Rusk gave up a single to Columbus’ lead-off hitter, but she would settle down after that to force a pair of pop-flies and a strikeout to retire the side. 

The Lady Eagles closed out the scoring in the top of the sixth when Jordan Rittenbacher drilled a two-RBI triple that ushered in a pair of runs, followed by Fairy’s RBI single. 

Despite the high score, game two was a performance — at least offensively — that was much more to Wood’s liking. Eastside was charged early in the game with a two-run homer from Rusk and a solo slam from Rittenbacher that helped it jump on Columbus from the beginning. 

And Wood says those two shots by two of her most consistent hitters was like a microcosm of the kind of production she’s seen at the plate this season — something that may be a little unprecedented for her and the teams she’s coached during her tenure. 

The stats seem to bare that out as well. Thanks to this team’s penchant for home run hitting, the Eagles’ 206 runs scored leads Region 4-AAAA and it the 7.1 runs per game average is the second best offensive output for Eastside over the last six years. 

“I’ve had six hit them over throughout the season,” Wood said. “I think this may be the first team I’ve had with that many home run hitters. But even with some of the girls we’ve placed at the bottom of the line up, they’re getting better pitches and their more disciplined and relaxed at the plate. And that’s made a difference overall in our offense.”

Eastside (21-8) will await the winner of the Perry-Thomson series that has been postponed, likely until Saturday, due to inclement weather generated by Hurricane Michael. If Perry wins, Eastside will host the Sweet 16 best 2-of-3 series Wednesday. If Thomson wins, the Eagles will travel. 

And although the weather is making things a bit difficult for practice logistically speaking, Wood said the team will find a way to get some work in, given the cruciality of the next series. 

“We’re playing for Columbus now,” Wood said. “We know (Wednesday) would be a wash, but we’re still going to practice a couple of days before we get back to school next week. Fall break throws us off a little bit mentally, but we won’t I’ve them too many days off, as we want to get in just enough work to keep them focused so we can stay in Columbus mode and get it done for next week.”