Pats claim 4th straight region title

COVINGTON - Make it four.

The Heritage baseball team further solidified its legacy as a Region 8-AAAA dynasty by clinching its fourth straight region title on Monday.

The Patriots (21-4 overall, 21-2 Region 8-AAAA) clinched the championship with a 6-0 road win over Eastside (7-18, 7-16).

"This is special, especially since even though we won three straight (region titles), nobody believed we could do it again," Heritage coach Casey Teal said. "Nobody believed we could do it, nobody picked us to win it and nobody picked us to be at the top. Everybody thought we'd be fighting for the fourth (playoff) spot. Our kids proved to themselves and to everyone on the outside that it doesn't matter who we lost last year, we're going to do things right with the people we have here."

It didn't take long for Heritage to get its lead against the Eagles as Tyler Austin led off the game with a solo home run.

The Patriots went up 2-0 in the top of the second inning off a sacrifice fly RBI by Elliott Walker which plated Joseph Lester.

In the third, Ryan Jubran's groundout brought home Antonio Crawford.

Travis Tarleton made it 4-0 in the fifth when his sacrifice fly plated Austin.

In the sixth, Lester singled and stole second. After reaching third on a wild pitch, he scored on an Eastside throwing error.

The final run of the game came in the top of the seventh off another homer by Austin.

Besides being Heritage's big stick at the plate, Austin was also clutch on the mound, pitching a complete-game shutout.

Although Austin's accolades were the highlight of the game, Teal said winning the region title this year was because the team has a different hero every night.

"Our team doesn't talk about one player. We don't discuss it unless it has something to do with our whole team," he said. "Our whole thing is 'every night a different hero,' and that's what we put on our (region championship) shirts, because it's not just one player.

"We lost a truck load of talent last year. Talent-wise this year, we're probably the third-best team in the region on paper. Would I trade any of these kids for any other team in the region? No. They know what we expect, they know how to play and they know exactly how it should be done. Tyler (Austin) hit two home runs today and that was good, but for us to go all the way, we've got to play fundamentally sound baseball in every aspect of the game."

For Eastside coach Michael Poor, the game was another learning experience in what has been a rebuilding year at Eastside.

"We loaded the bases once, we left runners at first and second once, and another time we left someone stranded at second. We just couldn't get the big hit when we needed it, if we had, it would have made the game a lot more interesting," he said. "They're a great team over there at Heritage. They're very well coached and they're a great group of guys."

Poor also tipped his hat to Austin.

"The word going around is don't pitch to him, but my guys aren't going to get any better unless we face good, quality hitters," he said. "We're not in playoff contention, and if we were, we would have done things differently with him at the plate. Right now, our guys need to know that I trust them to throw in big-time situations against some of the best hitters in the region. We got burned a couple of times today, but we did hold him to singles a couple of times, so I was happy with that."

Eastside will wrap up its season Wednesday on the road at Salem. Heritage finishes its region slate Wednesday at Rockdale.

Brandon Evans can be reached at brandon.evans@rockdalecitizen.com.