On a beautiful day in Charleston, the Paris Eagles baseball and softball teams played important conference divisional games with the Tigers to remain in contention for a top seed in the upcoming district tournaments. And when the day came to an end, the Eagles and Lady Eagles returned to Paris with important conference wins and regular season sweeps against Charleston. The Lady Eagles defeated a determined Charleston team, 6-4. And across campus, the baseball Eagles, led by a monster performance from junior Duke Walker, finished the day with a big 15-3 victory over the Tigers.
In his best day so far in the 2021 high school baseball season, the Missouri commit was dominant from the mound and at the plate. Walker’s hitting has been impressive all season, but against Charleston, his pitching improved along with his control and velocity, and Walker kept the Tigers hitters off-balanced all afternoon. Walker pitched four complete innings and recorded 12 strikeouts while giving up just one hit. Meanwhile, on offense, Walker’s dominance continued by going 3 for 3 at the plate with 5 RBI’s which included a grand slam in the top of the fifth inning that ended any comeback hopes that Charleston may have had after scoring three runs to cut into the Eagles’ 8-0 lead.
Walker, a three-sport athlete in football, basketball and baseball, got off to a rocky start on the mound in the opening weeks of the baseball season. Without the benefit of much off season baseball work and conditioning, Walker showed potential with excellent velocity and athleticism, but suffered from lapses in control of his pitches in key situations. His performance on Friday at Charleston indicates that he is now in baseball shape and I look for him to be a key factor for the Eagles as they head into the final weeks of the regular season and the post-season tournaments. Walker can play several positions well on defense, and he is always a threat to go deep anytime he steps to the plate.
After the game, Eagles coach Josh Hart was ecstatic over the progress his team is making as they work toward peaking for the post-season. “Things are starting to click as a team for Eagles baseball. We are starting to hit the ball 1-9 (every player in the line-up) and playing fundamentally sound baseball. We knew as a coaching staff that we would get everything firing on all cylinders and it’s fun baseball when it happens. Duke Walker is back on the mound for us and had a dominant four innings striking out 12 and only giving up one hit He also had a heck of a game at the plate, helping us seal the run rule win in six innings. Konnor Edwards continues to perform both at the plate and on the mound for us. Nate Henderson is getting in his groove behind the plate and despite having to play with a couple of bumps, he did an outstanding job and showed a lot of heart.”
Friday’s defensive lineup that featured Walker on the mound, Henderson behind the plate, and Edwards pitching in relief seems to be a strong combination that will play well for Paris as the season moves toward the playoffs. Walker moved to shortstop in the fifth, and made several good plays with his glove and his throwing arm to first. The Eagles will need to continue to find more pitching as the season progresses to have multiple starters when needed in a tournament format in the post-season.
Paris will return home for a non-conference game with Clarksville on Monday, and that will be another opportunity for the Eagles to continue their development on pitching depth moving forward. On Tuesday, Paris will travel to Hackett for a huge conference rematch with the Hornets that could have a significant bearing on the final divisional standings. Hackett defeated the Eagles in Paris, and the Eagles will need to return the favor on Tuesday to remain in contention for the divisional lead.
Additional photos from the Eagles game at Charleston are now available on Facebook at Paris Eagles Sports. Fans from both schools can view and copy the photos free of charge. Resident Press will be in Paris on Monday to bring you coverage of the Eagles’ game with Clarksville. Watch for a recap of Monday’s game in the Tuesday evening online edition of Resident Press.
The Lady Eagles will travel to Atkins on Monday for a non-conference game with the Lady Red Devils. Paris will travel to Hackett on Tuesday to play a critical game with the Lady Hornets that will likely be for first place in the division. The Lady Hornets defeated the Lady Eagles in Paris in their first match-up, and Paris will need to get a big win at Hackett to remain in contention for the divisional title.
Both Charleston baseball and softball teams are very young, but very talented. The Charleston players are getting valuable playing experience this year, and I expect both teams to be big contenders next year. Charleston baseball coach Tyler Reece is doing a good job with a very young ball club, and he will have his Tigers in full contention next year. They are very talented, and this year, no one should take them for granted. They are capable of beating anyone.
Enjoy your weekend, and I will see you in Paris on Monday afternoon for the baseball Eagles game with the Panthers. See you at the ballpark!