The Eastern softball team got the bats going early, like really early.
Eastern carried a four-run lead into the second inning, their first win at Williams Field this season and the second game in which they seized such a commanding edge after just one inning of play.
That alone, however, does not solidify Eastern’s ability to secure victories down the stretch.
The Panthers have gone 5-6 in games where they jumped out ahead at the conclusion of the first inning.
Eastern’s latest win, a 7-1 drubbing of IUPUI, seemed to be a paradigm of efficiency, as the Panthers concluded their onslaught of the Jaguars with a .423 batting average.
With their attention set on this weekend, the Panthers will close out the final home stand, and the season itself, in doubleheaders against Tennessee State and Belmont.
Indeed, any notion of replicating the sort of dominance they displayed earlier this week should be observed rather optimistically.
If one were to look at snapshots of the playoff pictures, from the first weekend of conference play until now, little would appear any different.
Sure enough, Eastern and Tennessee State went winless that opening weekend, absent from the playoff hierarchy altogether.
Like the season as a whole, the Bruins won half of their games that weekend, already jockeying for position on the periphery of playoff contention.
Both Belmont and Tennessee State have been abysmal on the road this season, neither of which are anywhere near .500 in such games.
The Tigers have not won a game at Williams Field since 2009, and, in their last appearance on Eastern territory, they were extinguished 9-1 through five innings, thanks to a slaughter rule handed down by the Panthers’ power driven duo of juniors Mia Davis and Haley Mitchell.
Issues with consistency have dogged the Bruins all season. Take, for example, their 7-5 loss at the claws of the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles.
Despite the assembly line of hits from senior Chelsea Thomas and sophomore Cheyenne Cavanaugh, the Bruins could not parallel an effective, if not impeccable, effort on behalf of Tennessee Tech hitters like junior Raegan Sparks and freshman Alexis Trimiar.
And, yet, even on the heels of its downfall to a middling OVC team, Belmont lost by just two runs to Alabama, ranked as the third-best team in the country, erasing a six run lead in the top of the seventh inning.
The Panthers can, depending on which Belmont team shows up at Williams Field Friday, potentially upend a playoff bound Bruins and ride into the offseason on a positive note.
Eastern will face Tennessee State in its final games of the season Sunday.
Tom O’Connor can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]