Members of the Eastside softball team celebrate after Lindsay Dean's three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday in the Region D, Division 1 title game. (Ned Jilton II photo)
NORTON — Nothing makes better fodder for a title game than controversy, and Thursday’s Region D, Division 1 softball championship had just enough.
Things began to stir earlier in the week with the announcement of the regional seedings, which put Honaker No. 1 and Eastside No. 2.
The Lady Spartans felt slighted — and settled the question with a 6-3 win that gave them the region title.
“We felt like we played tougher competition and that takes nothing away from Honaker, they are a fantastic team,” said Eastside coach Suzi Atwood. “But going into this, they said they were not going to seed on winning percentage and we played some tough teams such as John Battle and Abingdon.”
Honaker gave notice early Thursday as to why the Lady Tigers possibly deserved the higher seed, jumping out to a 3-0 first-inning lead. They took advantage of two Eastside errors in an inning highlighted by Marisa Hughes’ RBI double.
The Lady Spartans committed five errors total in the contest.
“We were nervous early and made some uncharacteristic errors. They were putting the ball in play and just came out playing hard. They did a good job on us that first inning,” Atwood said.
All six of Eastside’s runs came by way of the home run. Lindsay Dean, the team’s ace, connected with a two-run homer in the third, followed by a solo blast from Samantha Cole in the fifth — a shot to center that tied it at 3.
Dean saved her final heroics for the seventh inning when she connected on a three-run round-tripper that decided the game. Cole reached on a walk and Makayla Castle hit an infield single to set up Dean.
“We were upset over the seed coming in and that got us pumped to come in and beat the higher team,” Dean said.
In addition to going 4-for-4 with five RBIs, Dean recorded her 17th win of the season.
Honaker coach Amy Davidson took a reflective approach to the loss, and her postgame speech to her team included a history lesson.
“I’ve always told the girls that things happen for a reason and that this is the road we’re supposed to be on,” Davidson said. “A few years ago the Honaker baseball team went into the playoffs as runner-up and fought their way to a state championship.”
The Lady Tigers had opportunities, stranding five runners over the last four innings. Cassie Baker and Haley Brown each went 2-for-3 to lead the offense.
Eastside will host Northwood in the first round of the state playoffs. Honaker must travel to Holston.