COVINGTON - Strong pitching and hitting is what wins games.
That's exactly what the Eastside Lady Eagles have as they hope to be one of the teams to reach the Elite Eight in the Class AAA softball playoffs, which start at 4 p.m. today at the Lainer Pointe Softball Complex in Gainesville.
Top pitcher Amanda Henderson is 21 strikeouts away from entering the Top 10 in the state for most strikeouts in a season.
Her pitching this season is just short of phenomenal with 284 strikeouts and a 0.75 ERA. Thirteen of her 22 wins have been shutouts.
"I think she's they key to our success this year," Eastside coach Heather Wood said. "She gives the team a lot of confidence and gives us an opportunity to win or to compete with anyone in the state."
At the plate, the Lady Eagles have a team batting average of .326 and have scored 157 runs. Eastside has 241 hits, including 40 doubles, 18 triples and six home runs.
Bri Chambers, Sierra Petree and Henderson lead the team at the plate with respective batting averages of .472, .397 and .393.
Besides pacing the team at the plate, Chambers is tied for fifth in the state for most triples in one season with six and is two from tying the all-time record. She also leads the team with 16 stolen bases in 17 attempts.
Henderson leads the team with eight doubles, one ahead of Petree.
"We're starting to put more hits together. Their hitting is coming around at the right time of the season. In the region tournament, a lot of girls steeped up and hit for us," Wood said. "Erica Cronic, our No. 8 hitter, stepped up. Amanda Henderson and Amanda Hawkins both had good bats for us. I think overall our lineup is getting stronger as the season goes on."
While success is not new to Eastside's softball team, making it out of sectionals has always been difficult. Since 2001, the Lady Eagles have only made it to the state finals once - in 2006.
Knocking Eastside out of the championship bracket the last three years has been Ringgold, the Lady Eagles' likely opponent in the second round.
"The past two years, we've played Ringgold our second game, and here it is a third year, and I'm sure we'll end up playing them again," Wood said. "I think we can (beat them), it's just going to take a lot of hard work and intensity."
Before the Lady Eagles get to play Ringgold, they will have to beat opening round opponent Lumpkin County.
If the Lady Eagles can get past Lumpkin County and Ringgold today, they will most likely play against this year's surprise team, Creekview, at 2 p.m. Saturday.
"If we get past Ringgold, it looks like we might play Creekview. They've come out of nowhere this year. They're a top five team and they've been winning," Wood said.
"There will be 16 teams there, and the top four go to state. I think we have what it takes. We can compete with anybody in the state. We just have to play like we're capable of playing and do the things we're suppose to be doing."
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.