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High school softball: East Hall dominates Cedar Grove in first round of Class 3A playoffs
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East Hall Gracie Smith rounds third for the Vikings Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, during the first inning of their 3A softball playoff blowout win over Cedar Grove High at the East Hall Community Center softball fields. - photo by Scott Rogers

The East Hall softball team wasted no time in making its mark on the Class 3A playoffs. 

The Lady Vikings fired off 27 runs in the first inning of their first-round playoff doubleheader against Cedar Grove on Wednesday evening at East Hall Park, marching to wins of 27-0 and 23-0 in a complete domination of the visiting Lady Saints. Both games ended via the run rule after three innings. 

Up next, East Hall faces the Cook/Jenkins winner, starting with a doubleheader in another best-of-three series Wednesday in Gainesville.

Cedar Grove was one of the weaker teams coming into the state tournament, but East Hall coach Anuel Burce said he and his team were determined not to take anyone lightly in their postseason run. Mission accomplished.

“We just looked to take it seriously, press on, and take care of business the way we should,” he said. “And I think we did that today.”

Macy Banks started both games for the Lady Vikings, striking out seven of the 10 batters she faced in Game 1 and three of four in Game 2. In relief, Calli Hardison struck out five over the final two frames. 

Offensively, East Hall saw contributions from pretty much everyone. All nine Lady Vikings starters scored multiple times in the first inning of Game 1, as East Hall racked up 24 runs before Cedar Grove recorded its first out of the game. 

It was déjà vu in the second inning of Game 2, when the Lady Vikings scored 17 times to go up 20-0 and cement their dominating series win to advance into the second round of the Class 3A state tournament. 

PITCH PERFECT

East Hall’s two pitchers were sharp and efficient Wednesday evening.

After giving up a single into left field early in the top of the first inning, Banks rattled off seven consecutive strikeouts in Game 1. She struck out three of the four batters she faced in her one inning of work in Game 2. 

When Banks ceded the circle to Hardison, there was no falloff in production. Hardison retired all six batters she faced, striking out four of them. 

Burce said the performance from his pitchers was encouraging, even if it came against lesser competition. 

“That’s what we ask for them,” he said. “Calli hasn’t gotten to throw a lot, so it’s good to get her in there, get some work in. Hopefully, we can roll with both of them going forward.”

YOUTH GAINING EXPERIENCE

One positive of the lopsided score was that it allowed Burce to clear his bench early and get his less experienced players valuable varsity playoff at-bats.

Nearly every member of the East Hall roster picked up at least one hit, with many of the reserves accounting for multiple RBIs. In the second inning of Game 2, Maggie Banks subbed in and hit a two-run single. Three batters later, fellow reserve Abi Mullins doubled to bring Banks home. 

Burce said he was extremely pleased with the way his entire team played, top to bottom.

“I think all of them did well,” he said. “They put the bat to the ball pretty good.”

STAYING FOCUSED

With the first round officially out of the way, East Hall must play the waiting game ahead of next Wednesday’s second-round series. The long layover leaves plenty of time to lose focus and fall out of the successful run that has seen the Lady Vikings win eight of their last nine games. 

Burce said the team will take plenty of time to rest and get healthy over the next week.

But when practice time comes around, he’s expecting 100% effort out of everyone, in an attempt to stay sharp throughout East Hall’s playoff run.

“We’ll tell them make every rep count,” he said. “No matter what we do, whether it’s a light practice or what.”

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