COVINGTON, Ga. - The Eastside Eagles defeated the Newton Rams 4-1 in a come-from-behind victory that boasted excellent pitching on both sides.
It was a pitcher's duel that involved two of the county's very best going the distance in a match where they put their talents completely on display.
The Rams jumped out to an early one-run lead in the top half of the second inning. After that one run, both Eagles senior Kailey Rusk and Rams sophomore Hayden Pearson would cruise until the Eagles broke through in the bottom of the fifth.
Pearson almost worked out of the inning as the Eagles scored all of their runs with two outs. With runners on first and second, Eagles shortstop Lauren Burnett hit a bloop single that dropped right on the right field foul line between the Rams right fielder and first baseman.
If this bloop single is caught, then the Rams probably walk away from Eastside high school with a rare victory over the Eagles. Rams head coach Virginia Tucker-Smith knows how crucial it is for her team to make those types of effort plays if they hope to excel in the playoffs.
"Like I told them, If those plays aren't made here, we're definitely not going to get through the first round of state. We've got to make those plays," Tucker-Smith said. "Competition only gets harder moving forward. If we can't get this right, here, on this stage, it's going to be a quick exit in the state tournament."
With runners moving on contact, both runners on base came around to score and gave the Eagles their first lead, which they would hold until the final out. The Eagles would pad their lead and add on two more runs for insurance before their final out in the fifth.
Eagles senior Kailey Rusk ended up emerging victorious between herself and Rams sophomore Hayden Pearson, but both pitchers were at their very best. Rusk allowed one run on four hits and one walk, while Pearson allowed four runs on ten hits and a walk.
Rusk had her strikeout pitch working in yet another commanding performance as she struck out 12 Rams batters. Rusk's ability to not let a couple of early mistakes get to her ultimately led the Eagles to the victory.
Rusk has been a model of consistency for the Eagles, but her head coach Heather Wood knows the importance of giving their star pitcher run support.
"Kailey threw well. Defensively, we were solid. We just had a hard time at making the adjustments at the plate," Wood said. "Rusk is going to always put us in a position to win, and we know we have to do whatever we can to help her."
Both the Eagles and Rams have high hopes for not only excelling in their region tournaments but also state playoffs. They each have one more game remaining on their schedule before they set their sights fully on the postseason.
The Rams will face Rockdale County next on the road with the opportunity to close out their season with a region victory.
The Eagles will look to continue their reign as the county's best softball team as they take on the Alcovy Tigers in their final game of the season.