CONYERS — Wednesday night’s season-opener for Rockdale County and Eastside didn’t go without excitement for both teams.
23 combined hits, 26 combined runs and one extra inning of play on a chilly night at Rockdale made for some thrilling baseball, but in the end, it was the road Eagles who left the field on the receiving end of a victory after clipping the Bulldogs 14-12.
“We fought every inning there and were lucky enough to get a chance there at the end to push some across and come out on top,” Eastside head coach Brandon Crumbley said. “(Rockdale) has a good ball club. For the first game of the year for both teams, you normally exect a game to be 2-1, 1-0. A pitchers duel. Tonight, 26 runs between the two of us, it was fun. But we have a lot to clean up and a lot to work on.”
Rockdale County’s only lead of the game, 2-1, came in the second after leadoff hitter Jordan Rome roped a single to left that scored Eyon Everett from third.
The Eagles bounced back in the top of the third with six runs on five hits to take a commanding 7-2 lead. The first two runs for Eastside came without a hit being recorded. Parker Daniel scored on a passed ball to tie things up at 2-all, followed by a Colby Shivers run, who scored on a pass ball of his own with Sambo Button standing at the plate to take a 3-2 lead.
The big hit of the inning came off the bat of Ethan Booth who nailed a line shot to right field that scored two. Dawson Schwartz came around to score on a fielders choice to extend the lead to 6-2 and later scored on an infield single from Jackson Watts.
But just as quickly as it appeared the Eagles might run away with the win, the Bulldogs struck for five runs in the bottom half on just two hits. Jaylon Teague pushed the first run across after hitting a SAC fly to center that was followed by a throwing error to third that cut the deficit to 7-4.
Everett drove in the games’ next run on an infield single and after a passed ball scored Nicolas Osorio from third to make it 1-run game, Rome tied things up at 7-all on a sharply-hit single to left.
At the end of six, the Eagles and Bulldogs found themselves deadlocked at 9-all with the highlight swing coming off the bat of Rockdale’s Corbin Shaw, who launched a towering home run to left for his only hit of the game.
Heading into the final inning, the Eagles pushed three more runs across to take a 12-9 lead thanks to an RBI single off the bat of Kyle Shivers and a 2-RBI single off the bat of Noah Cook.
Down to their last three outs of hte game, Eastside’s Brayden Downs set down Everett for the first out of the inning, but followed that up with a 1-out walk to Jabari Simmons.
Crumbley elected to pull Downs for Aron Cox, and after getting a 4-pitch strikeout agianst Rome, the pitching change appeared to be a good one.
However, a walk to Darius Williams was followed up by an error from Cook at shortstop on a ball off the bat of Christien West, who then threw a wild ball to first, scoring both Simmons and Williams to cut the lead to 12-11 with two outs.
After intentionally walking Shaw, Teague struck out, but a passed ball allowed the senior to reach first safely, tying the game up at 12-all and sending pinch runner Shawn Swift to third.
Standing 90 feet away from a potential walk-off winner, Bryce King stepped inot hte box and after running the count full, flew out to left to send the game into extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, the Eagles scored twice, the first on an infield single that nearly resulted in a gundown at the plate, followed by an infield single from Watts to take a 14-12 lead.
With Cook on to pitch the final inning for the Eagles, a 6-pitch walk to Osorio had the Bulldogs thinking comeback again, but this time, the door was shut.
Cook set down the next three batters in order and ended things on a strikeout looking agianst Rome to secure a 2-run victory for the Eagles, 14-12.
“We don’t know wheter or not to be impressed or upset with our guys,” Rockdale head coach Kevin Dawkins said. “I’m kind of somewhere inbetween. I told the guys that anytime you get a chance to score 12 runs this early in a season when it’s cold, that’s a good sign. For us to be able to put up 12 runs against Eastside and that pitching staff is saying something.”
After recording eight erros on the night, Dawkins said that’s the area he would like to see improved the most m0ving forward.
“The thing that I am frustrated about is with the mental aspect of the game,” Dawkins said. “I kind of thing that was lacking. Those are things that can be corrected. This provides us an opportunity to fix it now instead of waiting until mid March once region play starts. We have to get back to work tomorrow, fix those mistakes and go from there.”
Rome, West, Teague and Everett each recorded two hits on the night.
The Eagles booted their fair share of balls, too, leading to seven unofficial errors on the night, but Crumbley said that the more they play and get into a routine, those sorts of things will get corrected.
As for the offense, Crumbley said he couldn’t have been much happier with their performance after going a combined 13-for-30 (.433). Shivers, Booth and Watts each recorded multi-hit performances.
“The young guys really played well tonight,” Crubmley said. “I was proud of that. We swung it better than I thought we would. The biggest thing is we have to take care of the baseball. It’s the first game and are a long ways from where we want to be, but there are a lot of good things from tonight.”