The Eastside High baseball team opened the season at the Baseball at the Beach tournament at Myrtle Beach a little short-handed: That same weekend, three players were in Columbia competing for the Eagles in the Class AAA boys basketball state championship game.
Once Eastside returned home and filled out its roster, the Eagles won three straight Peach Blossom AAA Region games to even their record at 3-3 entering Friday’s game against Southside.
One of the baseball players that led Eastside to the boys basketball state final was Kyle van Hoff.
The senior pitcher made his season debut on the mound March 13 in Eastside’s 12-2 win against Pickens. Van Hoff allowed two unearned runs on four singles in a five-inning complete game. He had two walks and six strikeouts and, batting leadoff for the Eagles, also scored a pair of runs.
“For him to throw strikes like he did and have command of his breaking ball (in his first start), I was real impressed,” Eastside coach Scott Erwin said. “That’s just him. He’s been like that for four years for us.”
After winning an Upper State championship in basketball, van Hoff wants to lead the baseball team back to the Upper State final, which they played for in 2011.
“I was pretty happy for it being my first start,” said van Hoff. “I was depending on my offense to help me out, and they did.”
Leading the way offensively against Pickens was third baseman Brandon Barber, who went 3-for-4 with three runs and two RBIs. He also fielded his position cleanly with a couple of nice throws to first on slow rollers.
Barber, van Hoff and Ryan Mason are seniors who’ve committed to play at Erskine.
“I was as proud of (Barber) this offseason as I have been of anybody in a long time,” said Erwin. “Not just his work ethic — where he worked his butt off to get faster — but also his attitude and helping out the younger guys. It’s paying off for him in his own performance.”
Seven Eagles drove in runs in Wednesday’s win.
Barber and catcher Sam Jones each drove in two runs. Shortstop Bryson Williams, second baseman Zach White, right fielder Jacob Marke, designated hitter Buck Brewer and center fielder Eric Marsh each had one RBI.
Erwin said getting that kind of production from the lineup top to bottom will be a key to Eastside’s success.
“Our region, from top to bottom, is as good as any as far as I’m concerned,” said Erwin. “For us to be 3-0 (in the region), we couldn’t be in a better position.”