TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio —The Lady Eagles’ 2017 campaign began with a bang, or five.
The Eastern softball team blasted five home runs on Wednesday night in Meigs County, as the hosts took a 13-5 victory over Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division guest Belpre, in the season opener for the Green and White.
The Lady Eagles (1-0, 1-0 TVC Hocking) began their power surge in the bottom of the first inning, as junior Sidney Cook blasted a long two-run home run over the left field fence. The very next batter, senior Katlyn Barber, followed it up with a home run of her own, also over the left field fence.
With two outs in the bottom of the first, Eastern scored its fourth run of the game when Cera Grueser singled home Taylynn Rockhold.
Belpre (2-1, 0-1) — which finished second to Eastern in last year’s league standings — got three of the four runs back in the top of the second frame. First Kaitlin Richards doubled home Madison Harman and Alexandria Williams, and then Ryleigh Hannah singled in Makaylee Deaton.
After a scoreless frame for each side, Eastern broke through again, as Rockhold led the bottom of the third off with a solo home run over the left-center field fence. Later in the third inning, Courtney Fitzgerald drove in Kelsey Casto to push the EHS lead to 6-3.
After two quick outs in the top of the fourth, Hannah McDaniel was singled home by Katie Osburn, who then scored on an EHS throwing error, cutting the Lady Eagle lead to 6-5.
Eastern wasted little time getting some breathing room, as Emmalea Durst doubled, moved to third on a single by Cook, and then scored on a sac-bunt by Katlyn Barber. Cook was then singled home by Rockhold, who was then singled home by Grueser, giving the Lady Eagles a 9-5 lead.
EHS got back to the long ball in the bottom of the fifth inning as Durst led off the frame with a solo home run. After a quick out, Katlyn Barber launched her second solo home run of the day, pushing Eastern’s lead to 11-5.
After a BHS pitching change, Rockhold and Mollie Maxon hit back-to-back doubles to increase the EHS lead to 12-5.
Eastern scored the final run of the game in the home half of the sixth inning, as Hannah Bailey drew a walk, moved to second on an error, was singled to third by Ally Barber and then scored on a double steal.
Belpre got its only hit of the final three innings in top of the seventh, but the Lady Golden Eagles failed to score and fell by a 13-5 final for their first loss of the year.
“This is a good case of six weeks of great preparation,” said EHS head coach Bryan Durst. “I think we were looking forward to this game from the first day of practice. To be able to come out here, carry through with all the hard work and show that it really paid off makes me feel really good and makes me feel really proud of these girls.”
Eastern’s starting pitcher, Elaina Hensley, earned the win, allowing five runs, three earned, on seven hits and one walk. Earning the save and pitching the final 3.1 frames was Sophie Carleton, who allowed zero runs on one hit, one walk and one hit batter. Both EHS pitchers struck out two batters.
“In the preseason we’ve been going about three innings and I had a feeling we wouldn’t be able to go much over that,” Coach Durst said. “We’re probably going to pull some pitchers pretty quick this year. Sophie came in there a did her job, she probably wasn’t as sharp as she could have been and really didn’t throw her fastball like she normally does. She just went in there and gutted it out.”
The losing pitcher of record was Osburn, who allowed 11 runs on 14 hits and three walks in 4.1 innings. Harman pitched the final 1.2 innings in relief for BHS, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks. Osburn struck out four batters, while Harman fanned one.
“Sometimes with home runs, once they get started it’s just like an epidemic,” Coach Durst said. “Sidney Cook’s was as good of a shot as I’ve seen in the last couple of years and Katlyn Barber follows it right up. Our two, three, four and five hitters all had home runs, it’s just good hitting.”
Rockhold led the Lady Eagles at the plate, going 4-for-5 with one home run, two doubles, four runs scored and two runs batted in. Katlyn Barber was 2-for-2 with two home runs, three runs batted in and two runs scored, Cook was 3-for-4 with a home run, two runs scored and two RBIs, while Durst was 3-for-5 with a home run, a double, two runs scored and one RBI.
Grueser went 3-for-5 at the plate for EHS, marking two doubles and two RBIs. Maxon finished 2-for-3 with one double and one RBI, Ally Barber added a single and a run scored, Fitzgerald chipped in with an RBI, while Bailey and Casto each crossed home plate once.
Deaton and Hannah each singled twice to lead the guests, with Deaton — the seventh batter in the order — scoring once and Hannah — the no. 9 batter — marking an RBI. Richards — Belpre’s eighth batter in the order — doubled once and drove in two runs. Belpre’s top-six in the batting order were a combined 3-for-22 at the plate with zero extra base hits.
The hosts committed five errors in the game, while Belpre had three defensive mishaps.
These teams are scheduled to meet again on April 11, in Belpre.
Eastern is scheduled to return to the diamond on Friday, when the Lady Eagles host Federal Hocking.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.