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TYLER WILLIAMS: Five things we learned from Eastside-Woodward Academy, Game 1
Once Eastside's Josh Sims gets in a groove on the mound, Eagles baseball coach Bruce Evans says Sims' curveball is almost unhittable. - photo by Gabriel Stovall | The Covington News

The Eastside Eagles baseball team fell just short Monday night to a talented region 4-AAAA foe in Woodward Academy. In a battle of the Eagles, it was a game that came down to the final inning, culminating in a dramatic comeback attempt for the Eagles of Eastside. However, despite showing a lot of resiliency, Woodward escaped Eastside with a 5-4 game one win in a three-game series. Here’s five things we learned about Eastside after its first true big game encounter of the season.

The Eagles are fighting, scrappy ballclub. As mentioned above, Eastside showed a lot of resiliency during the first of three games this week vs Woodward. They went down two runs at the top of the first, thanks to a pair of fielding errors, but then quickly chopped the deficit down to one. Then, Woodward extended its lead to 4-1 in the top of the fourth, but the Eagles would continue to fight through some sloppy defense, bringing the game down to the bottom of the seventh inning trailing only 5-4. Despite the loss, this team showed a lot of heart which could be an X-factor at some point, down the season’s stretch.

Austin Holloway has the look of a MLB level catcher. Granted, size is a huge contributing factor in the scouting and recruiting process for high school athletes – Holloway is generously listed as 5-foot-10 –  but Holloway has just about everything it takes to be a very good catcher for Georgia College – where he will move on to play college baseball after high school – and beyond. A great example of his skill came In the top of the second inning, Holloway popped up from a pitch with lightning speed and picked off Woodward’s Darien Wiggins attempting to steal second base. As soon as he threw the ball, he began to walk away as he knew he had generated the last out of the inning. The play caused a Woodward parent to shout out to Holloway that the Atlanta Braves needed to find a spot for him. That same fan then stated Holloway was one of the best catchers he’s seen. The combination of speed, instinct and confidence Holloway possess will take him far in his baseball career, despite his size.

Riley Ralston makes a SportsCenter Top 10 catch. In the top of the sixth inning with Eastside down 4-3 and looking to retire the side with two outs, left fielder Riley Ralston made a spectacular diving grab off a pop fly that was set to land several feet in front of where he was positioned. However, Ralston was determined to not allow the fly ball to become a hit for Woodward, and sprinted towards the ball diving at the very last second to make a catch worthy of being highlighted on ESPN.

Josh Sims performs well under pressure. Much like on the gridiron, the James Madison football signee took the mound Monday night and remained calm, cool and collected for most of the game. After going down 2-0 early in the first inning, Sims came out in the second and dealt two strikeouts to help cool off Woodward’s hot first inning hitting. Sims also got the team out of a bases loaded jam with one out by delivering a couple balls that resulted in fly outs. And once he settled in and started dropping his curve ball, Woodward batters started fanning. Not bad for his first extensive action on the mound this season after recovering from a thumb injury that required surgery.

Despite the loss, the Eastside Eagles are a strong baseball team. There are a lot of things to like about this baseball team. Sims and catcher Holloway have one of the strongest bonds between two athletes in high school sports which results in tremendous chemistry from the mound to home plate, and trickles down to the rest of the team. Eastside also has tremendous hitting ability. Seven players connected the bat with the ball at crucial moments, proving just how good the hitting on this team is and can be once confidence raises. Expect a bounce back against Woodward in their second game Wednesday at College Park, and expect this team to make another deep run in the playoffs if it plays to its full potential.