COLUMBUS - The Lady Patriots of Northside- Columbus turned three Eastside errors into three runs to win the opening game of the GHSA Class AAA softball state finals 3-2 in eight innings Thursday at the Columbus Softball Complex.
As a result of the loss, the Lady Eagles dropped down to the bottom bracket where they play Creekview, which lost to Columbus 1-0, at 9 a.m. today.
"It makes the road much harder. But like I told the girls, Sequoyah lost their first game three years ago and they came back through the loser's bracket and won the whole thing," Eastside coach Jason Stokes said. "They had a dominant pitcher, just like we do, and they took it to the house so we could easily do the same thing."
Eastside held the lead for most of the game until two errors in the sixth inning allowed Northside to take a 2-1 lead. The third error, coming in the eighth inning, gave the Lady Patriots the win after Eastside failed to respond.
"We looked like a very young team. They looked like they were scared, like they had never been in certain situations that we have been in several times this year," Stokes said.
The Lady Eagles took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning. However, they should have scored more.
With Victoria Reich and Savannah Upshaw on third and second base with one out, Erin Steele hit a perfectly placed bunt to load the bases. Reich crossed the plate on an Emily Almand hit to right field to give Eastside a 1-0 lead while leaving the bases loaded with one out.
But that was all the Lady Eagles would get out of the inning as a bunt died in front of the plate, making an easy out with the third coming on a strikeout.
"We had several opportunities (to score), I thought, with runners in scoring position that we didn't capitalize on. We'd gotten away with it at times this year with Amanda (Handerson) pitching. I told them we can't continue living like that because it's going to bite us in the butt, today it did. We blew our opportunities early and then tried to play catch up," Stokes said.
The Lady Eagles tied the game in the bottom of the seventh on a Steele bunt following a Reich double.
In the top of the eighth, the Lady Patriots' Taylor Caldwell hit a clean shot in the infield. What should have been an easy third out resulted in the go-ahead run after the ball was held before the throw.
"I think the pressure just got to them. You could see it," Stokes said. "When the ball was picked up you could tell something bad was fixing to happen with that ball before it even happened. You could see the jitters. It's disappointing."
Steele paced the Lady Eagles at the plate with two hits followed by Bianca Reed, Amanda Hawkins, Taylor Causey, Reich, Upshaw and Almand with one hit each.
Eastside pitcher Amanda Henderson kept the Lady Patriots off balance for most of the game striking out 18 batters while giving up five hits.
Casey Googe and Karson King had two hits each with Caldwell hitting one.
"It's like when they hit the ball it was like 'I've got to do something?'" Stokes said. "It's like they're not ready for it."
Manny Fils can be reached at email@example.com.