It wasn’t the way that Davey King or the Howard Huskies wanted their season to come to an end. For just under two hours, Howard and Eastside battled to see who would play the Worth County/Thomson winner in the Sweet 16 round of the GHSA State Class AAA Baseball Tournament and in the end, it came down to one at bat by Keith Buckhault. Buckhault was down in the count at 0-2 to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning before connecting on his second homer of the game to give Eastside a 7-6 win over Howard in the first round of playoff action Friday night at the Bibb County Sports Complex.
Eastside, 17-11 and 12-4 in Region 4AAA took the lead early in the first inning when Randy Loew homered off starting pitching Kyle Kelly to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead. Buckhault then follwed with the first of his two homers to make it a 2-0 lead. Eastside would then add a third run when Seth Allen doubled to center and scored on a mishandled ball by left fielder Kenneth Robitzsch.
Things would stay at 3-0 through the first three innings, when Howard (19-9, 14-4 in Region 2AAA) sent 11 batters to the plate in the inning, scoring six times on six hits and a pair of Eastside errors. Michael Atkinson led the inning off with a single to right. Third baseman Stewart Bowers then singled over courtesy runner C.J. Breland to second. Matt Mahoney then reached on a Travis Marks throwing error, loading the bases. A wild pitch by starter Randy Loew scored Howard first run. Then after Robitzsch popped up to short and Josh Cockrell struck out looking, Brandon Leigh singled to right, scoring Bowers. Dylan Holmes would single to center one batter later, scoring Leigh. A Fisher single and a King walk loaded the bases for Atkinson’s second at bat in the inning and the senior catcher made the most of it as he singled to center, scoring Holmes and Fisher to give Howard the lead at 6-3 and chasing Loew off the mound. Matt Hitchcock came on in relief and restored some order for 2 1/3 innings before surrendering singles by Bowers and Mahoney to start the seventh. He was relieved by Allen, who got Robitzsch to ground into a fielders’ choice and coaxed a double play grounder out of Zack Odom.
That set up the bottom of the seventh when King thought that he had Buckhault where he wanted him at 0-2. That was not to be as he connected over the right field fence to seal the win.
Hitting stars for Eastside were Buckhault (2 for 4, 2 runs, 2 RBI), Loew (2 for 4, run, 2 RBI) and Allen (2 for 3, 2 runs). Howard was led by Holmes (2 for 3, run, RBI), Fisher (2 for 3, run), Atkinson (2 for 4, 2 RBI) and Bowers (2 for 3, run).