TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — A pair of fives won’t do you much good at the poker table, but they certainly do wonders on the softball diamond.
Host Eastern turned a scoreless game through two-plus innings into a double-digit lead after four complete en route to an 11-1 mercy-rule victory over Southern on Tuesday night in a non-conference contest at Don Jackson Field in Meigs County.
Both the Lady Eagles (17-4) and visiting Lady Tornadoes (10-11) felt the need to get a game in so that they could collectively stay fresh for the upcoming Division IV tournament, so the squads made a late addition to the schedule to accomplish that common goal.
Make no mistake, both programs were ready to play again after a pair of close-knit battles in Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division play this spring — which the Green and White won by counts of 4-3 at SHS and 23-19 at home.
And through two innings of play, it appeared that the third meeting was taking a similar shape as the previous two encounters. Then came the bottom of the third.
Hannah Bailey and Abbie Hawley started things with a back-to-back lead-off walks, then Emmalea Durst reached on an error to load the bases. Sidney Cook followed with a free pass that allowed Bailey to come home with the eventual game-winning run.
Katlyn Barber grounded into a fielder’s choice in the following at-bat, which left the bases loaded even though Hawley was forced out at home.
After that first out, Cera Grueser answered with a back-breaking grand slam shot over the left-centerfield fence — giving EHS a 5-0 lead through three complete.
The Lady Eagles kept that momentum moving in the fourth after back-to-back one-out singles by Bailey and Hawley led to Bailey scoring for a 6-0 edge. Durst followed with a third straight single that plated Hawley for a 7-0 lead, then Cook received a walk while putting runners at first and second with one out.
With a base open and Grueser on deck, the Lady Tornadoes opted to take their chances with Barber — Eastern’s four-hole hitter.
Barber responded by belting an 0-2 offering over the left-centerfield wall as that three-run homer made it a 10-0 contest after four complete.
Southern had at least one hit in each of its five innings at the plate, including a pair in the fourth. The guests, however, had only one baserunner reach third in the game — which happened to come in the top of the fifth.
Jaiden Roberts grounded into a fielder’s choice and advanced to second on a groundout, pushing Southern to its final out of the game with a runner in scoring position. Sydney Cleland came through on an 0-2 offering that ended up in right-center, ultimately allowing Roberts to score for a 10-1 contest.
Eastern, however, got that run back in its half of the fifth as Durst popped out to left for the second out of the inning, but that sacrifice fly also allowed Bailey to score from third while wrapping up the 10-run outcome.
EHS outhit the guests by a 10-6 overall margin and also committed one of the three errors in the contest. Southern stranded seven runners on base, while the Lady Eagles left only three on the bags.
Elaina Hensley was the winning winning pitcher of record after allowing one earned run, six hits and three walks over five innings while striking out one. Cleland took the loss after surrendering 10 earned runs, 10 hits and five walks over 4.2 frames of work.
Hawley, Durst, Grueser and Bailey led Eastern with two hits apiece, followed by Barber and Courtney Fitzgerald with a safety each.
Grueser knocked in four, Barber drove in three and Durst also had two RBIs for the victors. Bailey led the hosts with three runs scored.
Kati Barton paced the Purple and Gold with two hits, with Cleland, Josie Cundiff, Paige VanMeter and Kassie Barton each adding a safety apiece.
Both teams return to action at 5 p.m. Thursday in Division IV sectional action as top-seeded Eastern hosts eighth-seeded Trimble, while sixth-seeded Southern travels to third-seeded Waterford. Both games are sectional final contest.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.