COEBURN — The Spartans jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead and never looked back as they took out the Raiders 8-1 in the Cumberland District championship at Tracy Stallard Field in Coeburn.
“We came out of the gates swinging it,” Eastside head coach Chris Clay said. “We had some hits in the middle innings today, but they kind of picked it up. It was pretty steady on both sides, offensively and defensively.”
Nick Livingston and Justin Sexton singled in the first two at-bats of the game to get on base for the Spartans. Both were able to steal on a wild pitch, and then Livingston scored on an errant throw.
Blake Jones then belted a two-RBI single that would score Peyton Pope and Will Stansberry making the score 3-0 after one.
Pope then picked off a runner in the second as the Raiders went three-up, three-down.
In the Spartans’ half of the inning, big bats from Livingston, Pope and Landon Trent and two Burton errors extended the lead to 8-0.
Pope came up big on the mound for Eastside as seven of his nine strikeouts came from the fourth inning on.
“Pope was good. He was just kind of grinding it out. This was for sure the hottest day we have played. He just kept wanting to go back so we rode him almost to the end there,” Clay said.
Pope pitched 6 2/3 innings and was relieved by Trey Bush. As a senior on this young team, he has shouldered a lot of responsibility on the mound for the Spartans.
“Our defense played really well today. We all really worked well together today. We knew this was a big game today and we just worked it,” Pope said.
The Raiders’ came closest to a comeback in the fourth when they had runners on first and third with one out. Pope came up big with a mix of off-speed pitches and fastballs to fan the next two batters.
“My curveball has been working really well, a lot better than my fastball. So I kept it to the curve to get them behind and finished them off. I had a good day today,” Pope said.
The Raiders’ lone run came in the sixth when Jonah Cochrane got into scoring position and Tanner Branham placed an RBI bunt to get Cochrane across the plate.
Both teams play next week in the Region 1D tournament. Burton will travel to Honaker Friday at 6 p.m. to face the Tigers. Eastside will face either Patrick Henry at Stallard Field at 7 p.m.