COVINGTON - Hitting is the key to the Eastside softball team coming back with the Class AAA championship as it beings tournament play Thursday at 3:30 p.m. against Worth County at the Columbus Softball Complex.
"Everybody has a solid pitcher and good defense; that's how they've made it. So I think that whoever is hitting is going to win state," Eastside coach Heather Wood said. "We definitely have to continue our momentum with our offense and keep it going through this weekend. I think we're hitting and peaking at the right time of the season."
Sierra Petree and Bri Chambers lead the Lady Eagles (27-5-1) at the plate. Also coming around offensively are Erica Chronic, Kayla Jones and pitcher Amanda Henderson.
"I think that's also helping Amanda, giving her confidence because there's not so much pressure on her," Wood said. "Most of our games until late in the season were one-run ball games."
After the Class AAA North Sectionals, Henderson has 313 strikeouts, one of the 10 best single-season performances in state history.
Even though Henderson has been solid all year, Wood knows that this weekend, the level of hitters will probably be some of the best she's seen all year. However, she's not concerned about her performance.
"She's only gotten better as the season progresses. I think she'll do a great job for us. Amanda is very strong mentally," Wood said. "She doesn't show a lot of emotion, which is intimidating to hitters. They're not going to get to her, they're not going to rattle her. She's very tough mentally and that's what's kept her in every single game.
"Right now, we have a lot of confidence because we've been doing so well lately. The first run we allowed (at sectionals) was the first run in 10 games. We have a lot of confidence going in."
Although it's not smart to look past an opponent, especially at the state tournament level, Wood is guilty of that as she is looking forward to playing Lakeview-Ft. Oglethorpe.
"I know we have to take it one game at a time. You can't help but look into the future. But our first goal is to take care of Worth County," Wood said. "I think we have a pretty good chance of making it to the finals. Getting past LFO is the key. We know they're beatable. We've seen them play (at north sectionals) and we have confidence that we can beat them. We just have to make sure we execute when we have to."
If Eastside gets past the Lady Rams (24-5), it will play the Lakeview-Ft. Oglethorpe vs. Columbus winner at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
"We should do fine against Worth County, I'm more worried about the games after that," Wood said. "We have to make sure we don't underestimate any of these teams. Obviously, they're going to compete with us since they made it to state."
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.