KINGSPORT — The slate has been wiped clean.
None of the victories that landed Eastside the VHSL Group A state softball championship last season will register in the win column during this year’s quest to repeat that feat.
But that doesn’t mean the Lady Spartans won’t be drawing off the experience they gained during last year’s title run. The first day of the Eastman Invitational offered plenty of evidence that Eastside’s players still have ice water in their veins during crunch time.
The Lady Spartans broke open a 1-1 tie with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth and final inning to beat Volunteer 3-1 on Friday.
In their second game of the day, the Lady Spartans rallied for seven runs just ahead of the time limit to erase a 4-2 deficit. They went on to beat Sullivan North 9-6 in the six-inning contest.
Samantha Cole, one of four returning starters off last year’s team, said the experience Eastside picked up during the 2012 postseason has carried over even though the roster has been overhauled.
“We’ve picked up right where we left off,” Cole said. “We learned to keep pushing. We have to keep momentum, keep momentum in the dugout and in the field.”
Cole led by example Friday, climbing out of a dentist’s chair in Wise at 2 p.m. after undergoing a root canal and making a frantic drive to the Eastman Softball Complex. When she arrived in Kingsport, Volunteer was already batting in the top of the first inning.
Cole put on a helmet and promptly led off the bottom of the first with a solo homer that tied the game at 1.
“I told the dentist that if it wasn’t done by 2, she was going to have to fill it up and let me come down here,” Cole said. “I got here when we were already in the field right before we started batting. I got here in time to lead off.”
Eastside’s nightcap offered the Lady Spartans the opportunity to come from behind to win against North, and they took full advantage. After tying the game at 4 in the final frame, Lindsey Dean slapped a two-run single to put Eastside ahead.
Dean’s hit wound up being the centerpiece of a seven-run outburst. North plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning before Cole slammed the door to record a win inside the circle.
While Eastside celebrated two clutch wins, the Lady Falcons and the Lady Raiders were both left to learn from a tough loss.
Pool play continues this morning with elimination games slated to start at the Eastman Softball Complex tonight at 6 o’clock. The championship will be decided on Sunday afternoon.
For the complete story, pick up a copy of the April 6 Times-News.