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Eagles keep playoff hopes alive with 5-2 win

COVINGTON — The Eastside baseball team ended their five game skid but more importantly kept their playoff hopes alive with their 5-2 win over Stephens County on Monday.

“This was a good team win and our guys rose to the occasion against a quality opponent,” Eastside head coach Jon Ayres said.

Even though the Eagles (12-11 overall, 7-6 Region 8-AAAA) playoff hopes are still alive, they still need a lot of help. For Eastside to have a chance, they will need to beat Stephens County (16-4, 9-2) in today’s 5:55 p.m. matchup in Toccoa as well as sweep their final region games against Monroe Area. The first game of the series will be Wednesday at Eastside at 5:55 p.m. before finishing the series on Friday at Monroe Area. They will also need Stephens County to lose the rest of their region games.

The Indians hitters had trouble against Eastside pitcher Drew Buckhault getting only one hit through the first two innings of play.

Eastside was able to take advantage of their opponent pitching to take a 1-0 lead in the second inning. After Conner Hewell reach the bags on a single, the Eagles showed patience at the plate as the Stephens County pitcher walked the next three batters pushing Hewell across the plate.

Stephens County did not stay down for long as they manufactured a run in the third with a sacrifice bunt and single to tie the game in the top of the third inning.

While Buckhault was able to keep the Indians quiet early in the game, he found himself in trouble in the fourth loading the bases with no outs. However, the senior pitcher was able to regain his focus to get himself out of trouble with a pair of strikeouts and a putout at first base to keep the game tied.

The game remained tied until Austin Holloway led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a single followed by another single from the bat of Hunter Ballard. A fielding error on Ballard’s single allowed both players to advance giving the Eagles two runners in scoring position.

With a suicide squeeze play called, Hank Steele delivered and put a high strike into play letting Holloway crossed the plate to give the Eagles the 2-1 lead. Steele was able to beat the throw to first base allowing Ballard to score on the throw making a 3-1 contest.

“Hank’s execution in getting the bunt down and some smart, effective base running played a big part in (Monday’s) victory,” Ayres said. ” Taking that lead late in the game gave us the momentum we needed.”

The Indians sent Ben Cleveland to the plate to begin the sixth inning. The 6-foot, 7-inch, 322 pound sophomore belted the first pitch delivered by Buckhault over the fence in centerfield for a solo home run. Stephens County continued to mount a threat and soon had the bases loaded again with only one out.

Buckhault was lifted in favor of Chase Raines and Raines got out the Eagles out of the inning with a single pitch as a double play was turned behind him.

Buckhault finished the game with five hits, three walks and four strikeouts for his 5-1/3 innings of work.

Eastside added a couple of insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth as a pair of walks were issued to the bottom of the lineup and Holloway collected a RBI on his second single of the night and the other run scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-2. Raines finished the inning to get the save as the Eagle defense turned another double play to bring the game to a close.

The Eagle will travel to Toccoa on Tuesday for the second game of the series before returning back home on Wednesday for senior night vs. Monroe Area High School.