But just two innings into Tuesday's 1A West Region quarterfinal contest between Eastside and Holston, the Spartans had erased all doubt of the outcome.
Eastside plated five unearned runs in the first and four earned runs in the second to jump out to a hefty 9-1 lead en route to a 12-3 victory. The Spartans will advance to play Auburn in the regional semifinals on Thursday at Virginia High.
"When you leave the door open in the first inning like that against a good team like them and they are going to take full advantage," said Holston coach Jason Matlock. "And that's what they did. It's difficult to put yourself in a hole like that and come back."
Eastside starter Matt Green got off to a shaky start in the top of the first inning, allowing a run to score on a two-out single by Dakota Barlow.
But the Spartans were undeterred. They batted around in the bottom of the first inning thanks to an ill-timed error that would have ended the inning. Instead, they used a mixture of aggressiveness on the base paths and a pair of key hits to take a 5-1 lead.
"It appeared that our aggressive baserunning kind of dictated things for the first couple innings," said Eastside coach Chris Clay. "Just pressure, pressure, pressure. It was a good mindset for a postseason game."
After Holston booted the potential third out with the bases loaded on a grounder by Cody Funk, JD Slone rapped an RBI single to left and Wes Yeary capped the inning with a two-run single.
Eastside continued to apply pressure in the second when Kobe Lawson singled and Ryan Milgrim drew a walk. Caleb Riner laid down a sacrifice bunt that forced a quick throw by Holston pitcher Conrad Thacker, and when the ball found its way past the first baseman and into right field, both Lawson and Milgrim game around to score.
Thacker was chased moments later after allowing an RBI single to Eastside's Austin Smallwood, and the rout was on.
The early lead enabled Clay to pull Green after three innings and allow Slone and Smallwood to chew up the rest of the innings, preserving some pitching for later this week.
Clay said it was a luxury he wasn't expecting to have.
"There's no Thursday if you don't win Tuesday, so we were going after this one," he said.
Slone and Yeary drove in two runs apiece for Eastside (18-5) while Riner had an RBI and scored three times. Nick Sturgill drove in a run, scored twice and had two hits for the Spartans, who pounded out 10 hits as a team.