COVINGTON, Ga. — Less than 15 minutes before Eastside's Cade Mitchell threw his first pitch against No. 1 Loganville on Monday, senior catcher Tanner Middlebrooks came trotting into the home dugout.
Middlebrooks, who’d just finished catching Mitchell’s warmup throws, was asked by head coach Brandon Crumbley how his senior southpaw looked.
“He didn’t miss a spot,” he replied, inciting a look of surprise from Crumbley.
“Usually you don’t get that from a catcher on a warmup with him because either Cade’s got it or he doesn’t, and he’ll just battle through it,” Crumbley explained after the game. “When Cade’s on, he’s on. And he was on [Monday].”
Mitchell set the tone for the day with a first-pitch strike. He went on to pitch a gem, with the Eagle offense providing enough run support to make his innings stand up, and led Eastside to a 4-0 upset victory over the top-ranked Red Devils at the Eagles' Nest.
“Those guys have been No. 1 from day one,” Crumbley said of Loganville, “and this shows that we can play with anybody in the state.”
Mitchell was brilliant. He tossed a complete game, walking off the mound with 14 strikeouts and three walks after allowing just one hit in the shutout. He threw 107 pitches, 71 of which were thrown for strikes.
“It’s just another Cade Mitchell outing,” Crumbley said with a smile. “That’s probably the second-best performance I’ve seen him have in his career.”
Monday’s shutout was topped only by a shutdown outing against Jones County earlier this year, when the lefty struck out 16 while giving up just one hit over six innings of work.
After Mitchell worked his way around a two-out walk in the first inning, Eastside (20-7, 9-4 Region 8-AAAAA) wasted little time providing their ace with run support. Junior Kyle Shivers and senior Sambo Button notched back-to-back two-out doubles, the latter of which scored Shivers to put the Eagles up 1-0.
With two outs recorded in the third inning and senior Mason Poole on third base, Loganville (21-6, 11-2) intentionally walked Shivers and Button to load the bases. Junior right-hander Trenton Burnett then attempted to pick Button off at first, but an errant throw sailed out of play and resulted in the second run of the game crossing the plate.
With two gone in the fifth inning, a Middlebrooks walk and Shivers double — No. 23 for him on the year — put a pair of runners in scoring position. The pressure resulted in another costly error as Loganville second baseman William Cawthon fielded a ground ball and threw it away, allowing a pair of runs to score and make it 4-0.
“We played clean baseball, we didn’t make any mistakes and had some timely hits. They made mistakes and we got some runs across,” Crumbley said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys in the dugout whom this game shows what happens when you play clean baseball.”
Eastside will travel to Loganville for a rematch Wednesday. First pitch is slated for 5:55 p.m.
“It’s going to be another dogfight because we just spoiled their 11-game win streak,” Crumbley said. “And their environment, it’s going to be packed with lot of noise, a lot of music, but it’s going to be fun. That’s what you want going into the playoffs. You want to play these types of games.”