East­side swag­ger

Ea­gles have met­tle of a cham­pi­onship team

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - SHAKEEM HOLLOWAY shol­loway@cov­news.com

Ea­gles have what it takes to be a cham­pi­onship team for the ages

Any cham­pi­onship team in any sport will tell you that to win a cham­pi­onship every­body has to buy in and every­body has to un­der­stand their role. Some play­ers on cham­pi­onship teams don’t like each other (Hi Shaq and Kobe), but they still work to­gether for the com­mon goal – a cham­pi­onship. This year’s East­side base­ball team hasn’t won a cham­pi­onship yet, but the Ea­gles are play­ing with the swag­ger and con­fi­dence of a cham­pi­onship team.

Swag­ger and con­fi­dence isn’t a tan­gi­ble statis­tic that you can see or judge the value of. Both swag­ger and con­fi­dence are im­mea­sur­able in­tan­gi­ble val­ues that have a ma­jor im­pact on team suc­cess. You can see both in East­side. They don’t brag or boast, but just look­ing at their faces and judg­ing from their ac­tions they look like a team that be­lieves it’s the best team on the di­a­mond no mat­ter who the com­pe­ti­tion is.

“It comes from work­ing hard with a man next to you,” Bruce Evans, Eats­side head coach, said about the ori­gins of his team’s con­fi­dence. “When every­body on this team has some­thing in­vested in get­ting to a cer­tain goal or play­ing a game and go­ing about the game a cer­tain way and they work hard for that ev­ery­day, they kill their self out there ev­ery­day for each other they care about each other and when you care about the man next to you, you got all the con­fi­dence in the world he’s go­ing to come through.”

The Ea­gles are com­ing off a big se­ries sweep (20) against Wal­nut Grove that gave East­side a onegame lead for sec­ond place on their side of Re­gion 4-AAAA. With just four games left, all the Ea­gles have to do is win three of four to keep their po­si­tion.

To get its sec­ond win, the se­ries clincher, East­side’s bats were cru­cial as they outhit Wal­nut Grove to win 11-6. They ran a lot of plays against the War­riors Thurs­day and they were all ex­e­cuted prop­erly, Evans says. That starts with con­fi­dence.

“When I as a coach have that con­fi­dence in my guys to know they’re gon’ do that (ex­e­cute) they know I’ve got con­fi­dence in ‘em or I wouldn’t call it. It just kind of builds off each other,” Evans said. “They see that I’ve got con­fi­dence in them and I see they’ve got con­fi­dence in me and the other coaches. Every­body’s got con­fi­dence in each other. We start hav­ing each other’s back go­ing af­ter it and that’s what builds it (con­fi­dence). That’s the team we want right there on the field.”

Bunting and know­ing when to bunt is a spe­cialty for Evans. It’s a tool the Ea­gles use to man­u­fac­ture runs and also to pre­vent outs and keep run­ners on base. Josh Sims and Hunter Bal­lard laid down to per­fect bunts to­ward the third base­line on Thurs­day and it just looked rou­tine to them.

“I wish I could tell you the magic po­tion. If it was one I’d bot­tle that thing up and sell it,” Evans laughed.

“You know in your fam­ily at home if you’ve got a brother or sis­ter or mother and daddy, you know who you can count on. Th­ese guys know they can count on each other. Pitch­ers know they can count on each other, hit­ters know they can count on each oth-- er. We know our catcher’s gonna be big back there and do what’s gotta be done,” Evans said.

That’s all East­side did against Wal­nut Grove the en­tire se­ries was “do what’s gotta be done.” In the first game the of­fense was good, but the pitch­ing from Ea­gle Gray Ritchey was out oof this world. The sec­ond game was all of­fense, with some nice de­fen­sive plays mixed in.

In the bot­tom of the sixth in­ning Con­nor Hewell made a great div­ing catch down the mid­dle at sec­ond to get the sec­ond out of the in­ning and keep Wal­nut Grove hit­less through the fi­nal frames.

“I saw that it was roped,” Hewell said. “He hit it hard and just off-bat I knew I was gonna have to get dirty. I just stuck it out there. Some­times it hits you and some­times it don’t and it just fell in there, it felt good. I’m glad I could make a play for my team like that.”

“Con­nor Hewell, he’s worked his butt off all year,” Evans said. “Him and Austin [Kerbow] both kind of pla­toon­ing at sec­ond

a lit­tle bit work­ing in and out. Con­nor hasn’t played sec­ond in a while, but he’s earned it. He earned an­other chance at it and when he got a chance he makes a div­ing catch up the mid­dle and his big­gest fan is Kerbow over here. They don’t re­sent each other and that ain’t just those two I’m say­ing our whole team’s that way. We pull for the nine guys out there and we pull for the guy in the bat­ter’s box no mat­ter who it is or what’s go­ing on every­body on our team pulls for each other. When we get to that place, man, that’s a good place to be for a team, es­pe­cially a high school team.”

Noth­ing echoed that fact more than when Sims hit his first home run at the top of the sev­enth in­ning and drew cheers from fans and his team­mates as they ran out of the dugout to greet him at home plate.

“When I first hit I was not ex­pect­ing the ball to go out,” Sims said. “I thought it was just an­other regular pop-up, but I heard every­body cheer- ing. I looked up, coach started to give me a high five and it was gone.”

Not­ing how his team cheered for him when he hit the deep ball Sims said, “It’s just a brotherhood. We do ev­ery­thing to­gether. We bleed to­gether, we sweat to­gether, so we cel­e­brate to­gether.”

Like the team­mates they are, Hewell backed him up, “It’s just team chem­istry, man. We’ve been to­gether since we were lit­tle to we’re older now. It’s crazy just see­ing every­body get­ting into it. One guy makes a catch and one guy hits a bomb, it’s just awe­some to see every­body come to­gether. We pick up mo­men­tum off that and just ride with it.”

All the Ea­gles have to do is keep win­ning and they’ll so­lid­ify sec­ond and host the No. 3 seed from the other side of the re­gion in a three­game se­ries which will likely be Jones­boro.

“Right now it’s in our own hands and that’s where we want it,” Evans said. “We don’t wanna count on some­body else to do our work for us. We want to come in here and do our job and do the work that we need to do to get to where we want to go.”

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