BUFORD — Even though the Lady Eagles did not get a hit until the top half of the seventh inning, their defense kept them in the game as they scored four runs to beat Lanier 5-3 in the first round of the Region 8-AAAA tournament on Wednesday.
“Kudos to our girls for not giving up,” Eastside head coach Jason Stokes said. “You could really see it in their faces that they could do it. It was just a matter of catching a break here or there.”
The win guarantees the Lady Eagles a return trip to the Class AAAA state playoffs. Eastside travels to Madison County on Saturday to take on the No. 1 seed Lady Red Raiders in a doubleheader on Saturday with the first game starting at 3 p.m. in the seeding aspect of the region tournament.
Trailing 2-1 heading into the top of the final inning, Taz Powell broke the ice getting Eastside’s first hit. With the bases loaded and and no outs, Madison Whitsitt had a blooper in front of the center fielder to plate Molly Moon and tie the game.
In Whits previous at-bats, she bunted the ball foul for the third strike. Her second at-bat resulted in being thrown out at first base when she failed to run to the base when the Lanier catcher dropped the third strike.
“She came through in the clutch and got the big hit,” Stokes said of the junior.
Taz Powell made things happen with her aggressiveness again giving the Lady Eagles the 3-2 lead scoring on a wild pitch that did not get too far away from the pitcher. In the fifth inning, Powell made things happen on the base path stealing two bases after getting a free pass to first base. She eventually scored the tying run to make it 1-1 on a wild pitch.
Eastside increased their lead on a Brittany Medlin ground out to plate Haley Yates with the final run crossing when Whitsitt scored when the catcher threw the ball to first base after dropping the ball on another strike three call.
“Hitting has been a problem for us for a long time. We’re really, really young,” Stokes said.
Despite not getting hits, Eastside still manged to get on base showing their patience getting five walks.
“I told them we’re taking a strike. She (Lanier pitcher Kaylee Ramos) has a tendency to blow up,” Stokes said. “I figured we’d take some pitches to put the pressure on her and make her work.”
However, the Lady Longhorns were not giving up. After starting the bottom of the inning with a Noelle Petty triple, Lanier made it 5-3 on a Holland Coursey single.
“When Caiti Ray got out there to pitch she was (nervous). I said I had to go out there to talk to her. But when I went out there she was all business telling me she was fine,” Stokes said. “She just wanted to get it over with.”
Ray ended the game catching a line drive before quickly throwing the ball to first base for the double play. Ray had been getting it done all game getting five strikeouts while giving up eight hits and walking two batters and hitting one batsman.
She sophomore pitcher showed her mettle in the first inning when Lanier loaded the bases on errors with one out. That was when she took matters into her own hands striking out the next two batters getting out of the inning.
“Caiti Ray showed up big and got a pair of strikeouts,” Stokes said. “We were really in trouble in the second inning too.”