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PREP SOFTBALL: Hampton edges out Eastside for the region championship
Kailey Rusk
Eastside Eagles pitcher Kailey Rusk was dominant for her team but a tough offensive night led to a loss. Photo by Michael Pope.

A shutdown performance on the mound from the Hampton Hornets kept the Eagles out of the run column as Eastside falls short of the region championship by a score of 1-0.

In preparation for the regional title match, Eagles’ head coach Heather Wood put Kailey Rusk on the mound for Eastside, who was coming off earning her 200th strikeout in their last game. Jana Shellhorse from the Hornets opposed Rusk on the mound.

After a strikeout to open the game for Hampton, the Hornets were able to get to Rusk before the first inning would end. They earned two walks and two hits, including an RBI double by Skylar Strahan to give Hampton the 1-0 lead in the opening inning.

The Eagles struggled at the plate during the first three innings, something that has not happened to them often during their 2019 season.

“Whenever someone strikes out or gets out in the field we always try to keep them up in the dugout, so they can communicate to all the other players how the pitcher is doing and what she is throwing,” third baseman Alysee Dobbs said.

Eastside was only able to knock two base hits during the first three innings. A quality start on the mound for Shellhorse held the Eagles long enough for Trahan to take over on the mound for Hampton.

“It just came down to failure to execute, we left a lot of baserunners on and did not execute bunts in situations where we should have,” Wood said.

Trahan took over for Shellhorse with one out in the third inning, and did not waste time, striking out two of the first three batters she faced.

“We know what a dominant pitcher [Trahan] is,” Wood said. “We know she throws hard; we just have to do a better job of putting the ball in play offensively, she came ready to compete like she always does.”

The Eagles would have their first large scoring opportunity in the bottom of the fourth inning, after back to back errors from the Hampton infield left runners on second and third with no outs for first baseman Jakiyra Lemmon.

Trahan would hold the Eagles, however, striking out the next three batters in a row to leave both base runners stranded in scoring position and preserving the Hampton lead going into the fifth inning.

“We know [Trahan] is a really good pitcher, we know that she is fast at her spin move and we needed to do shorter swings and just communicate with each other,” Dobbs said.

Besides the early run given up in the first inning, Rusk stayed on the mound the entire game for the Eagles and held off the Hornets for the rest of the game.

After getting the pop-fly for the last out in the top of the seventh inning, Rusk finished the game only giving up seven hits and two walks, while striking out nine Hampton batters. The only run given up by Rusk was the single run in the first inning.

“[Kailey] was able to settle, and we got out of situations defensively,” Wood said. “Kailey put us in a position to win.”

After a sharp lineout from Lemmon was caught in right field, Eastside second baseman Kelsey Ellis was able to draw the walk with one out, Trahan’s only baserunner allowed up to that point. After a ground ball out that advanced Ellis to second, Trahan was able to strike out centerfielder Natalie Ray to end the game and crown Hampton 4-AAAA Region Champions.

Despite the quality performance on the mound for Rusk, the Eagles could not get past the pitching performance from Shellhorse and Trahan.

Marking their second loss in 2019, Wood knows there is still much to be learned from the loss.

“We have to regroup as a team and show things that we need to continue to work on if we want to continue to move forward in postseason,” Wood said. “Even as hard as it [a loss] is to watch, we can learn from this.”

The Eagles will look to take what they can from this game as they move forward into postseason play. They are slated to face the Upson-Lee Knights at home in their first match of playoffs.