Prolific offense, stingy defense lead Eastside to region trophy

by Kelley Pearson, Sports Editor

Eastside has outscored their competition 25-1 in their last two games. It seems that the Lady Spartans are peaking at exactly the right time as those two games happened to be the Region 1D semifinal and championship games.

On Thursday, the Lady Spartans (14-2) socked it to Northwood 12-1 behind deft hitting led by senior Maggie Odle and strong pitching from Tinley Hamilton, who allowed only five hits and one run.

Odle went 2-for-3 from the batter’s box with two doubles and two RBIs, crossing the plate three times herself. She was also a wall at second base, spearheading a 4-6-3 double play that really turned the momentum in favor of the Lady Spartans.

“We’ve been working on a double play all year. I was pretty proud of that,” Odle said. “That brought us up in the dugout. We’ve been practicing laying off the high pitch and I think we did really well with that today. I think that’s going to carry on to the rest of the season.”

Cloey Bailey also went 2-for-3 while Anna Whited had two RBIs. Taylor Clay and Taylor Perry had a hit and an RBI apiece.

With the win, Eastside moved on to face Thomas Walker in the Region 1D championship game Saturday. The Lady Pioneers handed the Lady Spartans their only two losses in the season spurred on by freshman powerhouse pitcher Eden Muncy.

The game was scoreless moving into the top of the fifth inning in a textbook pitcher’s duel. Hamilton posted the only two hits of the game for either side thus far with a pair of singles in each of her at-bats. Enter Anna Whited.

Whited, who also stars on the Lady Spartan volleyball and basketball teams, decided to etch her name into the softball books as well. After striking out in the second inning, she blasted a hit to the right field fence for an in-the-park home run to get the scoring started.

“I turned toward third and I saw Atwood waving me home,” Whited said. “I didn’t even know where the ball was, I just trusted her and kept going.”

The shot electrified the Eastside dugout, who added an additional seven runs in the inning. Three of those came from Whited’s second trip to the plate in the inning as she belted another dinger with two on.

The 8-0 lead seemed to defeat the Lady Pioneers and the Lady Spartans took full advantage, scoring five more runs in the next two innings. Senior lefty lead-off hitter Perry, who had been in a bit of a slump, took an 0-2, two-out pitch over the fence for a solo four-bagger.

“Facing her two times previously, I knew what I had to hit,” Perry said. “I knew we would be seeing the riseball and the screwball and we were prepared for that. I got down two strikes and Suzi called time out and told me to tell myself ‘I can’. I said that about eight times and went up and hit a home run, so that felt good.”

Perry also had a huge defensive play early in the game, giving the Lady Spartans an edge in the momentum department. Thomas Walker had a runner on first after a batter was hit by a Hamilton pitch. The next batter delivered a shot to right field, directly to Perry’s waiting glove. The baserunner had started toward second and Perry was able to gun her down for the double play.

Hamilton was sitting on a no-hitter until the sixth inning when the Lady Pioneers’ Kaytee Livesay got the ball by a diving Whited in centerfield for the first hit of the game.

“We knew how we would have to play in this one,” Hamilton said. “We hit well, we pitched well and all glory to God on this one.”

Leci Sensabaugh had two RBIs while Liz Brace, Odle and Clay also had an RBI each.

Several players and coaches commented that the Eastside baseball team, who fell in the Region 1D championship game to Chilhowie the day before, was supposed to be there to cheer on the softball team. They strolled in late in the fourth inning, just in time to watch the Lady Spartans erupt.

“Our pep club came in about that time and they started cheering for us. It amped our girls up and we were ready to go at that point,” Eastside head coach Suzi Atwood said.

“We’ve been working on hitting and really making her (Muncy) throw some strikes to us and seeing the ball well. I thought we put the ball in play a lot better than we have done. We were pleased,” Atwood continued.

Hamilton went 3-for-4 with three singles with an RBI on the day. After all was said and done, she scattered two hits and walked none, but two Lady Pioneers got free bases after being hit by a pitch.

“She’s really been focused,” Atwood said. “We talked to her about some things that we needed to get done. She performed and executed just like we hoped.”

The Lady Spartans will travel to face Region C champion Auburn today at 3 p.m. If victorious, Eastside will advance to Saturday’s state championship game to face the winner of the other semifinal game, Rappahannock vs. Rappahannock County.