By Doug Gorman
When the Eagle's Landing Christian Academy Lady Chargers softball team began play Saturday in the Class A state sectionals, they were just one win away from earning a spot at next week's Elite Eight in Columbus.
The Lady Chargers put themselves in the drivers seat Friday night with wins against Bremen and Hebron Christian.
As it turned out, the Lady Chargers will have to wait until next year to contend again for a state title after losing twice Saturday in the state sectionals at Lovejoy Park in Hampton.
The Lady Chargers started Saturday's action with a 4-0 loss to defending state champion Gordon Lee, and then fell in their final game of the season, 6-1, to Jefferson High School.
Eagle's Landing Christian began the season with two losses before winning 17 straight games, and capturing the Region 5-A title. The Lady Chargers were also ranked second for most of the season in the gasports.com Class A coaches poll, one spot below Gordon Lee, a team that beat ELCA twice this year.
The Lady Chargers finished the season with a 19-4 record in just the team's second season playing against Georgia High School Association competition. This year's squad showed marked improvement from the 2004 team, which only won five games.
“Looking back now, from five wins to making it here, to the final 32, and really when you get down to it the final 10 or 12, that's a pretty big step,” said ELCA coach Joe Shadowens. “We got to take that big step to get to the next one, but we will do that.”
Eagle's Landing Christian started the season with two straight losses before running off a 19-game winning streak.
One of those two losses was against Gordon Lee, and in Saturday's rematch little changed as ELCA found hitting junior Kaity Holloway a tough task.
Holloway finished with a no-hitter, walked just two batters and struckout 16.
Gordon Lee scored a run in the first inning, added two more in the fourth and one in the fifth to account for its scoring.
In the fourth, Holloway helped her own cause with a single, Shauna Gallahar picked up a base hit, and Mallary Lee drove in a run with a base hit.
Morgan Anderson doubled and later scored in the fifth for Gordon Lee's final run of the game.
Eagle's Landing Christian's freshman Hope Rush tried to keep the Lady Chargers in the game by recording three strikeouts.
Rush gave the Lady Chargers a huge lift from the mound, pitching every game for ELCA and finishing with nine shutouts. She also was one of the team's top hitters.
Eagle's Landing Christian spotted Jefferson a three-run lead at the end of the first inning, and the Lady Chargers tried to catch up the rest of the way.
They did manage to cut the lead to 3-1 in top of the third inning when Rush doubled and Kayla Cooper and Rachel Irby reached on errors.
ELCA didn't score again. Still the Lady Chargers had their chances as Rush finished with three hits, including two doubles. Allison King had a single and a stolen base in the second inning.
“We liked our chances coming in today,” said Shadowens. “We knew we were going to have a hard time with Gordon Lee. We were overmatched by a better team, so we come back, and we don't know anything about Jefferson, but we tried to watch them a little bit, and felt that we matched up with them, and I think we would have matched up with them had we made some defensive plays. We were loose, nobody was tight, and we really thought we could win the ball game.”