The third inning was a disaster for Newton, but served as a game-changer for Eastside in the Eagles 9-3 win over their cross-town rivals at Georgia Perimeter College on Monday night, in teh season opener for both teams.
Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the third Cody Walker got things started for Eastside, drawing a walk. Eastside shortstop Joey Mitchell then delivered a sacrifice bunt, and after an error by Newton's third baseman, the first of three in the inning for the Rams, the game was tied.
The Eagles put up four more runs in the inning on a walk, two more errors and singles by Musashi Briem and Drew Buckhault. When the dust cleared, Eastside had jumped out to a 6-2 lead.
Starting pitchers Tripp Lofton of the Rams and Eastside's Drew Buckhault both gave up only one run in the first two innings, however Buckhault's early performance was much more dramatic.
The Rams missed an opportunity to blow it open with the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the first. But Buckhault was able to get thru the middle of the Newton lineup, allowing only one run on an off-target pitch that went to the backstop. Newton's Corliss Hardeman, who had walked to open the game, raced home for the opening run first run. In the bottom of the first, Newton looked poised to get out of the inning with no damage, but a wild pitch brought in Cody Walker, who had reached base on a walk.
Along with the four-run third inning, the Eagles also got strong performances on the mound. The combination of Buckhault and Matt Hitchcock held the Rams to just three runs on four hits. The duo gave up six walks, and combined for eight strikeouts.
While Newton's defense struggled, the Eagles committed just two errors and had some solid play in the infield.
"We have 9-10 guys I feel comfortable with at anytime on the mound," New Eastside coach Brad Weirr said. "We don't have that #1 guy, but we've got a bunch of guys that survive if they throw strikes. We have preached pitching and defense. We want the other teams to hit it at us because we play good defense."
Though the Eagles managed only five hits off Lofton and Zack Sullivan, the middle of their lineup did much of the damage. Jake Wright stroked two doubles to deep center and Briem singled twice, plus delivered on a suicide squeeze for an Eagles' insurance run.
"With our one through six hitters in the lineup, I haven't had this strong of a group in my 16 years of coaching," Weirr said. "Jake Wright will be at Middle Georgia next year and Keith Buckhault hasn't signed yet but he will go somewhere. And Briem, who is a junior this year, will have a shot somewhere next year."
Eastside moves on to play at Alcovy on Wednesday. Newton goes on the road to play Archer before returning to conclude the week of intra-county play at Alcovy on Friday.