WINDER - Eastside baseball coach Michael Poor said he considered the Eagles' 12-0 loss to Winder-Barrow on Thursday "a learning experience."
"Every one of our nonregion games is going to be a learning experience," said Poor, whose team is 1-2 on the young season. "Our starting pitcher today was a sophomore and our reliever was a freshman. We've already used six different pitchers this season and we got 14 of our 15 players at least one at-bat (Thursday). We want to get as many guys as much experience as possible before we get started in region play."
Eastside will face six more Class AAAA opponents - including Salem on Monday and Alcovy - before kicking off Region 8-AAA play on March 25 at Oconee County.
Thursday's game against the Bulldoggs (1-1) was a graduate-level class from the school of hard knocks for pitchers Seth Allen (the sophomore) and Jake Wright (the freshman), as they combined to allow a dozen runs - including two home runs - on nine hits in just four innings.
"I'm sure our pitchers learned a few things (Thursday)," Poor said. "Our defense made all the routine plays and you can't ask for any more than that. Winder-Barrow just out-hit us. They're a well-coached team. I'm not disappointed at all (in the outcome) considering the caliber of team we played."
Allen, who was tagged with the loss, had a few control problems in the first inning. Bulldoggs' leadoff hitter Max Pentecost doubled to right-center field and came out for courtesy runner Christian Davila, who quickly advanced to third base on a wild pitch. With one out, Dylan Ivie, walked and when Allen's subsequent pickoff attempt at first base missed the mark, Davila scored the game's first run.
The Eagles, who scratched out five hits in the game, had their best opportunity to score in the second inning when Randy Loew opened with a walk and reached second on a passed ball. With one out, Bobby Coggins also walked and Keaton Anglin hit a scorcher to center field. Loew held up at third while Coggins scampered to second, but they both were frozen in place as Sam Johnson struck out and Jake Casteel popped up to right field.
The Bulldoggs managed three runs in their half of the second, thanks to a long two-run home run over the left-field wall by Josh Ellerbee and a solo shot by Pentecost to the same vicinity. The bottom dropped out for the Eagles in the Bulldoggs' half of the third as Winder-Barrow sent 12 batters to the plate, scoring eight runs on six hits.
The lone Eastside highlights in the third inning came when right fielder Loew, second baseman Anglin and catcher Joey Bruce teamed up to nail Jeremy Donaldson at the plate for the first out.
The Eagles again had an opportunity to score runs in the top of the third when Allen and Hunter Parker hit back-to-back singles with one out, but the rally died suddenly when Loew hit into an inning-ending double play.
"We hit the ball hard today, but it always seemed to be right at someone," Poor said. "It was like we couldn't catch our breath."
Although Allen also experienced some mound turbulence, giving up five runs on four hits, a walk and a hit batter in the third, he pitched a steady fourth inning, getting the first two batters out before walking Kevin Wolf and coaxing a pop-out to Pentecost, the only time in four at-bats that the Bulldoggs' catcher didn't reach base and the only inning when Winder-Barrow didn't score.
Eastside returns to action on Saturday with a doubleheader in Henry County, facing Woodland at 10 a.m. and Stockbridge at 12:30 p.m. Both games, part of the Diamond Day Classic, will be played at Woodland High School in Stockbridge.