"And I waited until after this game to tell anybody," Lady Spartans coach Suzi Atwood said after Monday's 3-0 win over Northwood in the quarterfinals of the Region 2A West tournament.
Keeping a lid on the home streak was the discreet thing to do. Monday's matchup proved a far cry from last year's 12-1 thrashing of the Lady Panthers in the Division 1 state bracket.
Eastside (19-2) jumped ahead 1-0 in the first inning on Erin Stanley's RBI single. The Lady Spartans plated two more in the second on Lindsay Dean's base hit, the second of the two runs scoring after the ball was bobbled in center field.
After allowing four hits over the first two innings, Lady Panthers pitcher Mikayla Carter (13-7) buckled down to scatter three hits over four consecutive shutout frames.
"Every time we've seen them, she's gotten stronger. Northwood has been a hot team. We knew it was going to be tough," Atwood said.
Ace Dean (19-2) allowed two hits through the first five innings for Eastside. The Lady Panthers stranded runners in scoring position in the second and fourth innings.
In the fateful fifth, a leadoff single by Corey Gosnell was followed by two consecutive errors by Eastside shortstop Kaylee Jones, loading the bases. Jones redeemed herself on the next ball in play with a forceout throw to the plate for the first out.
Up next, Payton Stephenson stroked what looked like a base hit to right field. Eastside outfielder Kelly Sykes not only ran it down, her subsequent throw to catcher Katie Mullins also nailed Haylee Frye at the plate for the inning-ending double play.
"Yeah. I've got confidence in myself," Sykes said.
Her coach also had confidence in Sykes. But that left some wiggle room for astonishment.
"You can't ask for a better throw and catch than that," Atwood said. "I was pretty excited when she threw them out. I knew she would catch it, she's made some great catches throughout the season. But the throw was phenomenal."
Northwood coach Billy Joe Buchanan said he might've held Frye at third, if he'd been clairvoyant.
"I'd send her 100 times out of 100. I thought she'd score. That's why I sent her," Buchanan said. "(Sykes) just threw a strike. She just made a heck of a play."
Keely Atwood led the Eastside lineup, reaching base three times with two hits and a walk.
The Lady Spartans advanced to face Chilhowie in tonight's 7 o'clock game at Honaker. The Lady Tigers play Auburn at 5 p.m. in their semifinal matchup.