TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — Back-to-back and back to the district.
The fourth-seeded Eastern softball won its second consecutive Division IV sectional title on Thursday at Don Jackson Field in Meigs County, defeating No. 5 seed Belpre by a 12-3 count.
Defense controlled the early part of the game, with the host Lady Eagles (13-7) leaving four runners in scoring position in the first three innings.
After losing their starting shortstop and No. 3 hitter, Mollie Maxon, to injury in the top of the fourth, the hosts responded and broke the scoreless tie in the bottom half of the inning.
EHS seniors Kelsey Casto and Emmalea Durst both reached on errors and then scored on Belpre’s third error of the fourth. Eastern led 5-0 at the end of theinning, as Megan Maxon, Cera Grueser and Tessa Rockhold each had RBI extra-base hits.
The Orange and Black claimed three runs in the top of the fifth, but gave all-3 back in the home half, as Kelsey Casto drove in Ally Barber, and then Megan Maxon drove in Emmalea Durst and Kennadi Rockhold.
Eastern capped off the 12-3 victory with four runs in the sixth inning, featuring a two-run home run by Barber, an RBI double from Tessa Rockhold and an RBI single from Megan Maxon.
Following the win, sixth-year EHS head coach Bryan Durst talked about what the sectional title meant to his team, and also commended the Lady Eagles for being able to bounce back after losing a senior leader.
“That sectional championship is a lot of fun,” Durst said. “I think at this point in the season we really needed that. We’ve showed some really bright spots this year, but we’ve had our tough times too. It shows the character of these kids, picking it up after Mollie went out with her injury, that was really big.
“I think we’re real focused now, and ready to go to Rio Grande. Numbers don’t mean much to us, whether we’re the No. 4 seed or the top-seed, I look for a great performance out of our kids.”
Eastern — now with 23 sectional titles in program history — will be headed to the district tournament for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons, and will face No. 9 seed Paint Valley on Tuesday at 4:30 in Rio Grande.
Tessa Rockhold struck out three batters in a complete game win for EHS, allowing three earned runs on 10 hits and four walks.
McDaniel took the loss in five innings for BHS, allowing 10 runs, three earned, on nine hits and a walk, while recording a game-best seven strikeouts. Hutchinson finished the game for the guests, allowing two runs, one earned, on two hits and a walk.
Leading the victors at the plate, Tessa Rockhold was 2-for-3 with a triple, a double, a run scored and two runs batted in, and Megan Maxon was 2-for-5 with a double, a run and a game-best four RBIs. Grueser was 2-for-5 with a double, a run and an RBI for EHS, while Kelsey Roberts went 2-for-4 and scored once.
Barber contributed a home run, two runs and two RBIs to the winning cause, Mollie Maxon added a double, Emmalea Durst and Kennadi Rockhold both singled once and scored twice, while Casto ended with two runs and one RBI.
Lemon led the guests, going 4-for-4 with a run scored. McDaniel and Hutchinson were both 2-for-4, with McDaniel driving in two runs, while Richards singled once, scored once and picked up one RBI.
The Lady Golden Eagles were responsible for eight of the game’s nine errors and left nine runners on base, one more than EHS.
Eastern has now defeated Belpre three times this spring, posting a 10-3 decision in Washington County on March 27, and a 7-1 win in Tuppers Plains on April 14.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.