State softball playoffs: Henderson's pitching leads Eastside to next round

COVINGTON - No. 1-ranked Eastside made it look easy in the first round of the Class AAA softball playoffs Tuesday night.

Pitcher Amanda Henderson allowed only two hits and recorded 27 strikeouts in 12 innings as the Lady Eagles (24-8) swept visiting Dunwoody, taking the opening game 8-0 in five innings and winning the second game 3-0.

The Lady Eagles, who moved into the top spot of the PrepCountry.com-GACA Coaches Poll this week after beating Oconee County for the Region 8-AAA title over the weekend, will host Ridgeland in the second round Friday. Ridgeland advanced by beating White County 8-0 and 4-0.

In the first game, Eastside gave Henderson all the support she needed by scoring two runs in the bottom of the first without the benefit of a hit.

Bianca Reed worked a leadoff walk and moved to second when Victoria Reich was hit by a pitch. Reed stole third and then scored on the back end of a delayed double steal with Reich, who moved to third on a throwing error on the play.

After that, Reich scored on a wild pitch to extend the Lady Eagles' lead to 2-0.

"Exactly, it was real good (to get those two runs early in the first game)," Eastside coach Jason Stokes said. "That's our game plan (to put pressure on teams with our base running). At the top, we've got some speedy girls."

From that point, Henderson was her usual dominant self in the circle, striking out nine straight batters before issuing a two-out walk for Dunwoody's first base runner in the fourth inning.

Henderson finished the first game with a no-hitter, chalking up 12 strikeouts and allowing just two walks.

Eastside's bats came alive in the bottom of the third. Kenya Shakoor was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored on Amanda Hawkins' RBI single.

Later in the inning, courtesy runner Maryanne Fearnow scored on a single by Taylor Causey, giving the Lady Eagles a 4-0 advantage.

In the fifth, Eastside scored four runs to end the game early.

Shakoor and Henderson sandwiched singles around the first out to put the Lady Eagles in business. Causey, who was 3-for-3 with two RBIs, following with a single to plate Shakoor.

Summer Upshaw knocked in a run on a fielder's choice when Fearnow beat the play at the plate on a bunt. Emily Almond's RBI single wrapped up the victory.

In the second game, Shakoor provided the big hits for the Lady Eagles.

With two outs in the top of the first, she crushed a triple off the outfielder's glove in left. Hawkins followed with a clutch RBI single to put Eastside in front 1-0.

In the fifth, Reed led off for the Lady Eagles with a perfect bunt single, and two batters later, Shakoor crushed a two-run homer to left-center field for a 3-0 advantage.

"(The home run) was icing on the cake," Stokes said. "She's been struggling really lately. She's been having trouble hitting the inside pitch, lunging and hitting everything up. We worked a little bit in the cages this morning trying to get her to stay back. She got a hold of that one. She's very strong and she's got fast hands."

Once again, Henderson was dominant on the mound, chalking up 15 strikeouts and allowing just one walk. She gave up two hits, one on a bleeder up the middle in the fifth and the other on a solid single to lead off the bottom of the seventh.

Jeff Gillespie can be reached at jeff.gillespie@rockdalecitizen.com.