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Eastside takes Cumberland tournament championship

By DARRELL ELY, Sports Correspondent • May 17, 2019 at 10:21 PM

COEBURN — Peyton Pope struck out nine over 6 2/3 innings of work, Justin Sexton went 3-for-4 and Eastside continued its dominance of Cumberland District baseball with an 8-1 win over J.I. Burton in the tournament championship game Friday at Tracy Stallard Field.

The Spartans pounced with a trio of runs in the home half of the first inning.

Nick Livingston and Justin Sexton produced back-to-back singles to lead off. They then executed a double steal, and Livingston scored on an errant throw to give the Spartans a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Blake Jones tacked on two more runs on a two-out single that plated Pope and Will Stansberry to give Pope all the run support he needed.

Pope picked off a runner and used a double play to face the minimum in the top of the second before his team exploded for five runs in the home half to essentially put the game on ice. Livingston, Pope and Landon Trent each had an RBI and the Spartans swiped three bases and took advantage of a pair of Burton errors in the big inning.

The Raiders’ best shot at getting back in the game came in the fourth. Jonah Cochrane singled to lead off the inning, Tanner Branham drew a one-out walk and the two got into scoring position on a double steal.

But Pope fanned consecutive hitters to keep Burton off the scoreboard.

“Pope’s command was the best in the middle innings and he was able to pitch backwards when he wanted to,” Eastside coach Chris Clay said. “He grinded it out today. It was the hottest game we have played and we rode him almost the whole way.”

After the five-run second, Raiders hurler Aki Godsey limited the Spartans to just three baserunners the rest of the game, but his offense was unable to muster enough to get back in the game.

Burton’s only run came in the sixth.

Cochrane worked a one-out walk, moved to second on a wild pitch and went to third when a dropped third strike resulted in a ball being thrown into right field. Branham laid down a bunt to drive in Cochrane, but that was all the Raiders could get against Pope, who closed out the inning via strikeout.

Trey Bush came on in the seventh and recorded the final out of the game with the bases loaded. The Raiders stranded six baserunners in all.

Pope’s final pitching line read nine strikeouts, three hits, four walks and one unearned run over 6 2/3 innings.

Livingston finished 2-for-4 to aid Eastside’s nine-hit attack.

Cochrane, Caleb McCurdy and Austin Jones each had a hit for Burton.

Both finalists play next week’s Region 1D tournament. As the Cumberland regular-season champions, the Spartans have a bye.