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Golden Eagles soar into second round

By Jeffery Armstrong

The Eagle's Landing Golden Eagles had their fill of coffee – the Coffee County Trojans, that is – and now they move on to their next beverage, either a cup of Fayette County Tigers or a glass of Effingham County Rebels.

Eagle's Landing's Adam Fine pitched a complete-game one-hitter and the Golden Eagles got key hits to defeat the Trojans 3-0 in game three of the first round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs Friday afternoon at Eagle's Landing High.

The Eagles, who've qualified for state for the first time in school history, will play the Fayette/Effingham winner Wednesday, May 21.

With the win, Eagle's Landing (19-8) not only advances to the second round of the playoffs, but the team set some records in the process.

"We set a team record for wins in a season and Adam, who did a great job today, set a record for most pitching wins in a season with seven," said happy Eagle's Landing head coach Blake Lyons. "I'm so proud of the way the kids battled and won this series. They showed tremendous maturity."

Fine and Coffee starting pitcher Brandon Miller held each team in check for the first three innings. While Fine allowed no hits, Miller gave up shortstop Blake Austin's single in the first.

Coffee, playing without hot-hitting shortstop Leo Rodriguez (who was sick), had a chance for a big third inning. Trojan players Steve Jones and Ty Thomas reached on consecutive fielding errors with none out. The Eagles then showed why they're region co-champs as Coffee's Randy Drew, second cousin of St. Louis Cardinals outfielder J.D. Drew, grounded to Austin and he turned an unassisted double play. Fine then struck out Jordan Moore to end the inning.

The Eagles finally scored in the fourth. Austin reached on a throwing error by shortstop Matt Peavy and moved to second when the ball rolled into the Coffee dugout. Third baseman Matt Glass then smacked his second double of the series, scoring Austin for a 1-0 lead.

The Eagles added two insurance runs in the top of the sixth.

Glass led off with a double followed by an intentional walk to first baseman Luke Murton. Glass tagged and moved to third on designated hitter Michael Sanders' flyout. Birthday boy Nathan Christenson then laid down a nice suicide squeeze bunt down the first base line for a hit to score Glass.

Right fielder B.K. Short then lined a single to left field, scoring Murton from second for the 3-0 lead.

"It feels pretty good to get RBI hits," said Short, who's actually 6-foot-5. "The team has advanced and I'm glad to get out of my hitting slump as well."

While his teammates were scoring runs, Fine kept the frustrated Coffee team hitless.

He struck out the side in the fourth and got a strike-?em-out, throw-?em-out double play to end the fifth. Fine got two outs in the sixth, but lost the no-hitter when Coffee catcher Ricky Hutchinson got an infield hit as Austin had to run a long way in deep short just to field the ball. Fine wasn't rattled, getting a flyout to end the sixth.

Fine walked three and struck out nine in the contest, improving his record to 7-2.

"I knew I had a no-hitter, but I kept it in the back of my mind," said Fine, a sophomore. "I was a little nervous in the seventh, but I'm glad we won."

The Eagles have the luxury of playing at home or close to home next Wednesday. If Fayette County wins, they make the quick bus ride to Fayette. If Effingham County wins, the Eagles host the game.

"Either way, we get to sleep in our own beds and that's nice," said Lyons.