By Derrick Mahone
If Eagle's Landing Christian is the barometer of what Class A softball is judged on, then Strong Rock Christian definitely measures up in its first season in the Georgia High School Association.
Strong Rock defeated the four-time Class A champions 8-0 Tuesday in the first meeting between the Region 9-A schools. The Patriots are calling this the biggest win in school history.
Strong Rock now sports a 6-4 overall record in its first season in the GHSA, after moving up from the Georgia Independent School Association.
"This is definitely a good win for us," Strong Rock coach Eddie Wise said. "They are a region rivalry and a county rival. We are going to play them every year."
Although Strong Rock has beaten higher classification schools this season, the ELCA ranks as a big confidence booster. The Patriots are the only Class A school besides Gordon Lee to defeated ELCA in the last four years.
Tuesday's win was the first time since Sept. 6, 2008, that a Class A school has beaten ELCA since a 3-2 loss to Gordon Lee in eight innings.
"This will definitely boost our confidence," Strong Rock first baseman Ansley Hughes said. "They are a good team. We jumped on them early and was able to continue to get some runs."
The game was scoreless for the first two innings before Strong Rock got on the board in the bottom of the third. Megan DeLong scored on a RBI single from Leah Couch. Strong Rock would go on to score in the next three innings.
Katie Shultes pitched strong for the Patriots as she went the distance with 11 strikeouts while giving up only three hits. During one stretch from the first to fifth inning, Shultes retired 13 straight batters, including nine strikeouts.
"I sort of got into a zone," Shultes said. "When you are on, I guess you are on. Today, I guess I was on. This is definitely a boost for me and the team. I think people will now be watching out for us."
Although the teams are in the same region, this game didn't count in the region standings. The game next Tuesday will be a region contest.
Wise said he has to guard his team against overconfident when the team's meet at ELCA on Sept. 7.
"It's my job to make sure they stay level-headed," Wise said. "We have to realize that this will not happen every time. We have faced some good competition this season. We are trying to get ready for our region schedule."
Last season in the GISA, the Patriots were 17-12 and was knocked out the first round of the playoffs. With seven seniors, Wise thinks the team should be able to compete.
"Honestly, we thought we were in a little better shape than the other programs at the school," Wise said. "The biggest thing was the unknown factor of playing our first season in the GHSA."
In some ways, ELCA was its biggest enemy by committing seven errors. But Chargers coach Keith Batchelor was looking to make any excuses for the loss.
"My hats off to Strong Rock, they played well," Batchelor said. "They got some good pitching and hit the ball well. Late in the game, we sort of lost our focus."