The Eastside Eagles (20-1, 7-0) will finish their season with a single loss after finishing off their regular season schedule with a 10-2 victory over the Alcovy Tigers (11-14,2-8).
The Eagles have played closer games with their county rivals in these past few seasons, but they continue to prevail as the unofficial champions of Newton County and reign as the best team in the area.
The Eagles had already defeated the Tigers once this season by a score of 12-1. This game was very similar to the two teams previous meeting as it was close in the early stages, but the Eagles pulled away in the end.
It was a perfect start for the Eagles as senior pitcher Kailey Rusk sat down the visiting Tigers in order with one strikeout. Following Rusk's quick inning, the bats were working early for the Eagles as they put up four runs on the board in their opening at-bat.
In the early stages of the ball game, it seemed as if the Eagles would cruise to a comfortable victory to close out their regular season, but that was not the case.
The Tigers came up in the top half of the third and immediately got runners on first and second. With runners on first and second and two outs, Tigers senior Talacia Thompson helped her team get on the board with a single that would bring in both runners to score.
The following innings would be highlighted by shutdown pitching from Tigers sophomore Lexie McDonald and the Eagles Rusk. The Tigers seemed to be finding more success as the game carried on, but the Eagles blew the game wide open in the bottom of the fifth.
The Eagles started finding more success off the young Tigers pitcher, but for the most part, she was excellent on the mound for the Tigers. Tigers head coach Miranda Lamb was especially impressed and is happy McDonald will be returning next season.
"She's a sophomore and so thankful that she is only sophomore. She doesn't play like a sophomore, and her knowledge of the game is not that of a 15-year-old," said Lamb. "She's my ace. I trust her, and she's going to do what we ask of her and give it her all."
The Eagles went on to add six more runs to their two-run lead, and that was enough to call the game early. This Eagles victory insured them the unofficial honor of county champions having defeated the Newton Rams once and the Tigers twice.
When the game finally came to an end, it was an emotional scene on both sides with many players and coaches not walking away with dry eyes.
For many of these athletes on both sides, this game signified the final time taking the diamond and playing with close friends that feel like family. Both head coaches seemed to be wiping their eyes after the game, and they could not express how vital the seniors were to them.
Coach Lamb was fighting tears when talking about her senior group and how special each and every player was to her.
"They have been my family since I moved to Georgia. I moved to Georgia four years ago, and this senior class, them and their families have been my family," said Lamb. "It's hard just thinking about having to come back next year and those six girls not being here."
This emotional sentiment was also apparent and present in the Eagles dugout as well. Many seniors who were composed throughout the duration of the game had tears flowing when the game came to an end.
With the Eagles home in this final game of the season, coach Wood was happy to start all five of her seniors. It was an exciting night for that senior group as each either scored a run or had an RBI.
The final play of the game was a hit by Eagles senior Stevie Wilson, who knocked in two runs to signal the end of the game. Such a special performance from her senior group did not fall out of sight from coach Wood.
"These girls have been with us and have really contributed so much to our program so definitely celebrating them is always emotional," said Wood. "They all really stepped up and all contributed. They're a special group, and they all bring something to the team."
The Eagles will look to ride this offensive outburst into the region tournament and hope to improve on their postseason performance.
The Eagles made an early exit last season, falling in the second round to the Perry Panthers. The Tigers too will be preparing for their region tournament and will hope to improve on their region record.
The Eagles have always been the class of Newton County, but with the improvement and emergence of Alcovy and Newton, softball is growing to be even more competitive in the area.