TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — Champions again.
The Eastern softball team clinched at least a share of the 2018 Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division title on Tuesday evening in Meigs County, as the Lady Eagles defeated Waterford by a 10-7 count.
Eastern (15-3, 13-2 TVC Hocking) fell behind 1-0 in the top of the first inning, as Bailey Offenberger scored on a two-out error. Waterford kept the 1-0 lead until the bottom of the second inning, when Eastern went ahead 3-1 after a pair of WHS errors.
The Lady Wildcats tied the game at three in the top of the third, as Denise Young tripled home Marissa Neader and then scored on a single by Riley Schweikert.
The game wasn’t tied for long, as Courtney Fitzgerald singled home Emmalea Durst with one out in the bottom of the frame. The very next batter, Ally Barber, hit a two-run home run to give EHS a 6-3 lead.
Still with one out in the bottom of the third, Sidney Cook singled home Kelsey Casto and Sydney Sanders, and then Kelsey Roberts singled home Cera Grueser.
The Lady Eagle lead remained 9-3 until the top of of the fifth inning, when five straight hits led a quartet of Lady Cats around to score. Waterford only had one more hit in the game, however.
The final run of Eastern’s 10-7 win came in the bottom of the fifth inning, as Grueser led off with a home run.
In sealing a share of the 2018 league title, the Lady Eagles are back on top of the nine-team league after a runner-up finish last season. Eastern has now won six TVC Hocking titles in the last seven seasons.
“It’s what you strive for every year,” EHS head coach Bryan Durst said. “Winning the league is a great accomplishment, because it’s what you’ve done over the whole year. Tonight was a tough game, I think it’s one of those games you just have to grind out and battle. Whoever the league champion is, whether we win it outright or share it, you have to battle through games like this, because championships aren’t easy.”
After a non-conference trip to Logan on Wednesday, Eastern will attempt to win the league outright when it visits Southern on Friday.
“We’re going to play Logan tomorrow night and get a lot of good work in up there,” said Coach Durst. “When it comes to Friday, we’re going to let it all hang out, we’re going to go down to Racine to take care of business. It’ll be business as usual for us, we’re going to play good defense, our pitching will be strong and I think out bats will be ready by Friday.”
Tessa Rockhold was the winning pitcher of record in 4⅓ innings for EHS, striking out 10, while allowing seven runs on eight hits, four walks and a hit batter. Elaina Hensley picked up the save in 2⅔ innings of relief, striking out two batters, walking one and giving up one hit.
Emma Baldwin suffered the pitching loss in four innings of relief for Waterford, allowing seven runs on eight hits and three walks.
Leading the Lady Eagle offense, Grueser was 2-for-2 with a home run, a double, two runs scored and one run batted in, Barber was 2-for-3 with a home run, two runs scored and two batted in, while Roberts was 2-for-4 with an RBI.
Fitzgerald singled once, scored once and drove in a run, Cook singled once and drove in two runs, while Hensley came up with a single. Emmalea Durst scored twice in the win, while Rockhold, Casto and Sanders each scored once.
Baldwin led the Lady Cats, going 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs. Schweikert singled twice, scored once and drove in one run, Young tripled once, scored once and drove in two, while Alayna Jones singled twice and scored once.
The Lady Eagles committed two errors and left six runners on base, while the WHS had three errors and 10 runners stranded.
Eastern also defeated the Lady Wildcats by a 14-0 count on April 18 in Washington County.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.