Eastside blazes postseason trail to State Finals

June 19, 2021


It's Time. From T-shirts to Twitter hashtags, that's the slogan the Eastside baseball team has used all season long. With that season culminating at the IHSAA State Finals, the last 3 months have proven to be the Blazers' time. 

"I knew at a young age that this group was real special," head coach Aaron Willard tells ParkviewSportsMedicine.com. "To look back and understand how united our team was going through. As any coach, once you get them playing at that level, it's very satisfying."

Owen willard
Eastside junior pitcher Owen Willard will take the mound in the
2A state title game. He's 9-0 so far this season with 0.29 ERA. 

Perseverance has been key for unranked Eastside (26-6). After a 2-3 start to the season, the Blazers found their mojo once the Northeast Corner Conference slate hit. They finished a perfect 10-0 to win their first regular season NECC crown since 1989 and their first NECC Tournament title since 2017.

"Once we hit our conference tournament, I think that's when we really found our groove," senior second baseman Liam Franz says. "We didn't have the easiest draw, but we found our way through every game. We battled, we ended up winning it all. And I think right then and there we found our identity as a team."

"We set four goals this season, we accomplished them all," senior outfielder Wade Miller says. "Coach tells us to go in there, relax, play our game, and now it's paying off." 

Eastside heads into the 2A state title game against Providence (22-7) on a nine-game winning streak, clinching the program's first regional and semi-state titles along the way. The Blazers have outscored their opponents 53-6 this postseason. 

"We've been playing our best ball." junior pitcher Owen Willard says. Owen has been impressive all year, going 9-0 with 0.29 earned run average on the bump. At the plate, he hits with a .495 average with 36 runs batted in on 51 hits.

"I've had confidence all year, I feel like. Not many people have been able to put me in play. I've had a lot of strikeouts this year," Owen says.

"It's fun to watch him sometimes," Aaron Willard says of his son. "But when we get on the field, Owen's just another player to me. He knows that. I treat him like everyone else. It's probably more neat for more of the relatives than me."

Eastside Softball
Eastside won the 1998 IHSAA 1A Softball State Championship under skipper Aaron
Willard, who hopes to become the first head coach in Indiana history to win both a
softball state title & baseball state title.


Aaron Willard has been the baseball coach for 6 years, winning 104 games to date. Before that, he was the Lady Blazers softball coach for 23 seasons, winning 506  games and a state championship in 1998. With a win Monday, he would also be the first coach in Indiana history to lead both a softball team and a baseball team to state championships. Additionally, Aaron is athletic director, assistant principal, former boys basketball coach and Class of 1984 alumnus at Eastside.

While the family affair may be downplayed, the community support of the 2021 Eastside Blazers baseball team is undeniable. Fans lined the streets in the towns of Butler, St. Joe and Spencerville following Eastside's semi-state and regional victories earlier this month. The Bobcat Youth League in Butler even held a state send-off for the Blazers on Friday night. The team was introduced during a league championship game and the players signed autographs for the kids who one day will be wearing the Green & Gold themselves.

"It's amazing to know that we ade it from here and to be an influence to little kids," Wade beams. "We have a strong community behind us that is going to support us."

Eastside and Providence battle for the 2A state championship on Monday, June 21 at 8 p.m. at Victory Field in Indianapolis. 

Eastside is one of 25 high schools that partner with Parkview Sports Medicine for athletic training, sports performance, athletic rehab, nutrition and other sports medicine for Blazer student-athletes. Learn more at www.parkviewsportsmedicinecom.

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