RIO GRANDE, Ohio — The one thing you don’t want to run into in the postseason, a team with momentum.
The Eastern softball team had its 2019 campaign come to a close in the Division IV district championship game on Saturday at RedStorm Softball Park in Gallia County, as the fourth-seeded Lady Eagles dropped a 9-0 decision to third-seeded Peebles, which has now won seven games.
Eastern (14-8) — the third team that PHS (22-2) has shut out this postseason — recorded the game’s first hit in the bottom of the first inning, but didn’t reach base again until the fourth inning.
The Lady Indians broke the scoreless tie with two outs in the top of the second frame, using back-to-back two-run singles to take a 4-0 lead.
After a scoreless third inning, Peebles went ahead 7-0 with two outs in the top of the fourth, scoring on an RBI single, a bases loaded dropped third strike, and a passed ball.
The Lady Eagles made it into scoring position for the first time as Cera Grueser doubled to lead off the bottom of the fourth. Eastern was in scoring position again after a pair of singles in the following inning, but had its final seven batters retired in order.
PHS tacked on a run apiece in the final two innings, capping off the 9-0 victory.
Following the season-ending setback, sixth-year EHS head coach Bryan Durst talked about the second inning setting the tone for the Lady Indians, as well as the Lady Eagles’ offensive challenges in the contest.
“There were a lot of big plays in that four-run second, it just turned out that all those plays went against us,” Durst said. “That’s softball, it happens fast, and it’s like I told our kids, ‘overall, we just weren’t special enough today.’ We did some nice things, but we couldn’t piece hits together. We played a very good team, I give a lot of credit to that team, I think they’ll represent this district well.”
Alexus Metheney took the pitching loss in 3.2 innings for the Lady Eagles, allowing five earned runs on six hits and a walk. Tessa Rockhold struck out four batters in 3.1 frames for EHS, allowing four runs, two earned, on four hits and three walks.
Madison Pierce was the winning pitcher of record with a complete game shut out for PHS, striking out 10 batters, walking none, and giving up four hits.
Grueser led the EHS offense, going 2-for-3 with a double, while Emmalea Durst and Kennadi Rockhold came up with a single apiece.
Leading Peebles at the plate, Brycelyn Short singled twice and drove in three runs, while Marissa Moore and Hope Brown both singled twice and scored twice. Price, Christian Reed, Jerilin Toller and Mackenzie Farahay each singled once for PHS, with Farahay earning two RBIs, while Pierce and Reed drove in a run apiece. Kylie Sims contributed a run and an RBI to the winning cause.
This marks the final game in the prep careers of EHS seniors Alexus Metheney, Ally Barber, Mollie Maxon, Cera Grueser, Kelsey Casto and Emmalea Durst.
Coach Durst discussed the impact the seniors have had on the Eastern softball program, and what the underclassmen will have to do in order to return to the district final.
“When I think about our group of seniors, I think about their league championships and I think about them when they were young,” Durst said. “They brought a lot to our program and made things a lot of fun, we just came up short today. I have a lot of fond memories of them and all that they’ve accomplished throughout their careers.
“We’re losing those six seniors, but I told the underclassmen, ‘I’d like to make it a tradition to come back here every year’. With the players we have to replace, it’s going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of heart and a lot of dedication. Anything can happen, we can be right back here next year, and even go beyond, it’s just a matter of everybody coming together and working hard.”
The six EHS seniors have helped the team earn 67 victories in their four years.
Peebles moves on to the Region 15 semifinal against Portsmouth Notre Dame on Wednesday at Pickerington High School Central.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.