RACINE, Ohio — All good things eventually come to an end.
The Eastern softball team had its 25-game league winning streak come to a halt Friday night as host Southern established an 8-0 lead and never looked back during a 15-5 decision in a Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division matchup at Star Mill Park in Meigs County.
The Lady Tornadoes (5-6, 5-4 TVC Hocking) led wire-to-wire in the six-inning mercy-rule outcome, as the hosts pounded out 17 hits while becoming the first league team to beat the Lady Eagles (9-2, 8-1) since the 2014 campaign. SHS, coincidentally, was also the last team to beat Eastern in TVC Hocking play.
Both teams went scoreless in the first, but Southern manufactured a run in the bottom of the second after Sabra Bailey scored on an error — giving the hosts their eventual game-winning run and an early 1-0 edge.
The Purple and Gold followed with three runs in the third and four scores in the fourth for a commanding eight-run cushion through four complete.
EHS cut the deficit down to five after plating three runs in the top of the fifth, but the Lady Tornadoes answered with three runs in their half of the frame — making it an 11-3 contest.
Emmalea Durst doubled in two runs in the top of the sixth for an 11-5 deficit, but Southern quickly produced a pair of runs in the home half of the sixth to again lead by eight.
Then, with the bases loaded and one out, Savannah Bailey delivered a single that allowed both Paige VanMeter and Brandy Porter to score — which wrapped up the mercy-rule triumph.
After dropping a heartbreaking 4-3 decision to Belpre just 24 hours earlier, SHS coach Alan Crisp was most pleased to see the way his troops responded. He also liked seeing his girls do a complete 180-degree turn against EHS, who won the first matchup at Don Jackson Field by an 11-1 count back on March 29.
“We had a tough schedule at the start of the year, and we struggled through our first four games,” Crisp said. “We’ve been playing much better since the first week of the season, just building momentum and having things start to work in our favor.
“I didn’t know how the kids would react to the loss to Belpre last night, but they came in with a great attitude today and played with confidence. We play much better when have some confidence, and it showed. This was one of our better wins of the season against a really good team, so I’d guess that our confidence and our momentum is still growing.”
Conversely, for EHS coach Bryan Durst, Friday marked the end of a remarkable run of domination within the TVC Hocking Division. He hated to see it end, but noted that his troops will just have to go back to work on building another streak.
“It’s been a tough night. I know the girls hurt over this one, but we’ll go back to work on getting things right,” Durst said. “We’ve had a good run since 2014 and we’re real proud of that, but this one game doesn’t make or break us. There is still a lot of softball left to be played and we are still atop the standings in the league, so we just need to get back to doing what we do and see if we can’t still defend our title.”
The Lady Tornadoes outhit Eastern by a sizable 17-3 overall margin, but also committed four of the seven errors in the game. SHS stranded nine runners on base, while the guests left three on the bags.
Sydney Cleland was the winning pitcher of record after allowing five runs (two earned), three hits and two walks over six innings while striking out two. Jess Coleman suffered the loss for EHS after surrendering seven runs, 10 hits and two walks over four innings while striking out four.
VanMeter, Haley Hill and Sabra Bailey led the hosts with three hits apiece, followed by Porter, Savannah Bailey and Ali Deem with two safeties apiece. Cleland and Hannah Hill also had a hit each for the victors.
Savannah Bailey drove in a team-high three RBIs for SHS, while VanMeter led the victors with four runs scored.
Coleman, Durst and Katlyn Barber had the lone hits for the Lady Eagles, with Barber scoring a pair of runs.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.