One strong inning wasn’t enough for the Eastern Lady Eagles to continue their post-season softball run.
Eastern squared off with the third-seeded Peebles Lady Indians Tuesday evening at the University of Rio Grande in a Division IV district semifinal contest, suffering a 15-3 loss in seven innings.
The Lady Eagles scored all three of their runs in the bottom of the third inning, briefly cutting the Peebles lead to two at 5-3. But the Lady Indians added a run in the fourth and another in the fifth, before breaking the contest open with four runs in the sixth and four more in the seventh to take the 15-3 win.
The challenge for Eastern’s offense was Peebles pitcher Madison Pierce, who struck out 15 batters in the win.
“I told the girls if we could hit her (Pierce’s pitches), we would have a chance,” said Eastern coach Josh Nickell. “My hat is off to them. They are just a better team. Top to bottom, they hit the ball well. They have a lot of great athletes, and one superstar pitcher. I was proud of my girls. We had some strikeouts, but we went down swinging.”
Peebles started fast by scoring three runs in the opening inning. The Lady Indians scored an additional run in the second inning and another in the third to increase the lead to 5-0.
Eastern’s two-out rally began in the bottom of the third inning when junior pitcher Shay Tomlison produced her team’s first hit. That seemed to give the Lady Eagles a boost of confidence before Olivia Hatfield followed with a single. Then Maddy Southworth had the third hit, plating Kristiana McDaniel, who was serving as the courtesy runner for Tomlison. Then Leah Compton had the final hit of the inning, sending Hatfield and Southworth home. A groundout brought the inning to a close, leaving Eastern within two.
“A little bit of confidence goes a long way for those girls. We had some good hits. It just wasn’t meant to be for us,” said Nickell. “The plays were there. We made the ones we should make, and some of ones we probably shouldn’t have made.”
Over the final four innings, Pierce struck out nine Eastern batters. Leah Compton had the final hit with a one-out triple in the bottom of the sixth inning. She was stranded at third as Pierce followed with back-to-back strikeouts.
Compton led the Lady Eagles from the plate by going 2-for-3 with a triple and two RBIs. Southworth was 1-for-3 with a run and an RBI. Hatfield was 1-for-3, while Tomlison was 1-for-2.
Offensively, Peebles produced 11 hits. Tomlison pitched 6-1/3 innings before being relived by Hatfield.
“It was hard to throw it past them. I was calling inside, outside and everything Shay could throw. They would foul it off until she made a mistake and then they would hit it,” said Nickell.
“Shay fought hard and is getting better every time out. Hopefully Shay sticks with pitching, because we are going to lean hard on her next year.”
The Lady Eagles will lose six seniors to graduation, including Olivia Hatfield, Madison Southworth, Leah Compton, Breanna Carroll, Kallie Helton and Kristiana McDaniel.
“It is tough to see the seniors go. They are going to be irreplaceable. I look forward to going and watching Maddy (Southworth) and Leah (Compton) playing next year for OU-C,” said Nickell.
“We have some girls who are coming up from the eighth grade to help us next year. We also have some girls in the school who can play softball but they haven’t been playing. I’m going to aggravate them this summer to try and get them out of retirement. I think we will have a competitive team next year and surprise some people.”
Eastern ends the year with an overall record of 11-13. They completed Southern Ohio Conference Division I play at 5-9, splitting with Sciotoville East to complete the schedule.