WISE — During the pivotal fourth inning in the championship game of the Cumberland Conference 48 softball tournament, postseason experience proved to be the difference.
While a young J.I. Burton team learned some valuable lessons under the intense pressure of the postseason, Eastside's seasoned Lady Spartans leaned on their collective know-how to secure a 3-0 victory on Friday.
Senior ace Lindsay Dean loaded the bases with nobody out and managed to escape unscathed in the top of the fourth, and her teammates plated three runs in the bottom of the frame to spur the seven seniors on Eastside's roster to yet another district title.
"Bases loaded, no outs — there's nobody else you want pitching to them than Lindsay Dean," said Eastside coach Suzi Atwood. "She stayed calm, she knew what to do.
"This group of seniors, this is their fourth Cumberland District championship. It just pays. You could tell that we were seasoned and we've been there before."
Eastside will host Northwood in the first round of the 1A West Regional next Monday. Burton will travel to Honaker.
With four freshmen in the starting lineup and a sophomore inside the circle, the Lady Raiders (13-10) stood toe to toe with Eastside (18-2) for six of the seven innings.
"Every time we play them, we play them good for six innings and we have one bad inning," said Burton coach Jim Holdway. "It always hurts us."
Two Eastside errors and a walk loaded the bases with nobody out in the top of the fourth, but Dean and her teammates never panicked.
"It helps with nerves and knowing what to do," said Eastside third baseman Erin Stanley. "If you get into a sticky situation, you just have to buckle down, keep calm and just know where you have to throw the ball."
Dean induced a grounder back up the middle and started a 1-2-3 double play. After issuing another walk, Dean recorded a strikeout to escape with the game still scoreless.
Dean said the boost her team got from escaping the jam carried over to the bottom of the inning.
"Once we got out, we were all happy and excited," she said. "I think that's what got us more momentum to hit the ball and score."
After missing a golden opportunity in the top of the fourth, a couple of slight mistakes in the bottom of the inning cost Burton dearly.
Kaylee Jones led off the bottom of the fourth with a single, bringing Stanley to the plate. When Burton starter Tiffany Cole (12-9), who held Eastside in check for most of the game, hung a pitch, Stanley made her pay by lining the ball over the centerfield fence.
"We've been working on how not to drop our hands on the high pitch and I guess it paid off," Stanley said. "I can usually tell if it's out by the way it feels. It's a feeling you can't really describe, but it feels amazing."
Deja Stallard came up next and tripled. She later scored on an RBI groundout by Katie Mullins to provide the final margin.
"She got that one high and that hurt her," Holdway said of Cole. "That really should have been a one-run game if she didn't hang that one high, but that's part of being young."
Dean (18-2) allowed just one hit in seven scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts and also went 3-for-3 with a double.comments powered by Disqus