Staff photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith Daniel Garrett (20) has to stretch to get Troup County's Bo Halcomb out on a close play at first base.
COVINGTON -- Being a No. 1 seed did not give the Eagles any advantage as they were eliminated by Region 5-AAAA No. 4 seed Troup County 11-7 and 12-2 in the first round of the Class AAAA baseball playoffs on Friday.
As is the case in most games, hitting made a big difference. Troup County (17-11) combined for 25 hits in the two games while Eastside (21-7) had 15 hits combined. Of Eastside's hits, 11 came in the first game with only four in the second.
Troup County, on the other hand, was rather consistent in its ability at the plate, getting 14 hits in the first game and 11 in the second. Of 25 hits, it had three doubles a triple and three home runs. Eastside hit for four extra bases.
"You have to give them credit, they swung the bats well," Eastside head coach Jon Ayres said. "We swung the bats well in the first game. In the second game, we didn't do quite as well.
"We've got some good young players that are going to learn a lot from this. This is going to help us be a better baseball team next year than we are right now. We're a good baseball team but this experience is going to help us improve."
In the first game, Troup County took an early 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning while Eastside had a hard time offensively to start the game. The Tigers' Garrett McClurg kept the first 10 batters quiet as they either struck out or failed to get the ball out of the infield.
That changed when Cody Walker hit a line drive into the outfield in the third inning before eventually scoring to make it a 3-1 game.
The Eagles had a big fourth inning, tying the game on a Daniel Garrett two-run homer before Evan House broke the tie on a balk by McClurg and an RBI by Hunter Ballard. Eastside seemed to have everything going its way when Nick Womack put an exclamation point on the game with a two-run blast in the fifth to put the Eagles up by four runs.
Eastside's collective smiles soon faded when Troup County came back to score eight runs in the sixth inning, including a Jonathan Foster grand slam, to take the lead and the momentum.
"In the first game we did a great job and fought back," Ayres said. "The fact of the matter was that they hit the ball in that big inning. You have to tip your hat to them to hit the ball they way they did. Unfortunately, in the second game we had a letdown defensively and that created some problems for us."
Eastside seemed to put the devastating grand slam behind it as it came back to start the second game with a 2-0 lead on a Mushashi Briem double and a Drew Buckhault single to plate Ballard and Briem.
Unfortunately, Eastside's defense may have still been feeling the effects of the first loss. Throwing errors in the infield and outfield allowed Troup County to take the lead.
The first Eastside mistake came in the first inning as a bad throw to first base allowed the Tigers' runner to score from third base. After tying the game in the third inning, Troup County took advantage of numerous mishaps, including several in the outfield while trying to pick up the ball after a base hit. The Eastside mistakes allowed Troup County to score six runs in the fourth inning before scoring four final runs in the fifth when the game was ended on the run rule.
Although the season did not end on a high note, Ayres liked what he saw for next season and praised his players for what they accomplished this season.
"I have confidence we can build on this. I'm real proud of the kids," he said. "We had a great year. We won region for the first time since 2000. I think we have to celebrate the successes that we had. We have to celebrate the fact that its been a successful season and build on it so we can be an even better team next year."