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ELCA gets surprises in rise to No. 1

Chargers get answer in pitching question from shortstop Etheridge

Photo by Derrick Mahone / Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy’s Dalton Ethridge has emerged as the No. 1-ranked Chargers’ top pitcher.

Photo by Derrick Mahone / Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy’s Dalton Ethridge has emerged as the No. 1-ranked Chargers’ top pitcher.

McDONOUGH — If there was one area that had Eagle’s Landing Christian coach Doug Campbell concerned entering the season, it would have been its pitcher.

With the graduation of ace Kevin Martin, Campbell wasn’t quite sure who would emerge as the “workhorse” to anchor the staff.

With the Chargers sitting atop the Region 5-A standings and ranked No. 1 in Class A at 13-0, junior Dalton Etheridge has emerged as the ace. He is 5-0 with a 0.23 ERA on the season.

“Nobody has been able to touch him,” Chargers senior pitcher Patrick Busscher said.

“He has done very well,” ELCA coach Doug Campbell said about Etheridge. “He has been the guy that has stepped up.”

Being a team leader is nothing new to Etheridge. As the starting quarterback on the football team last fall, he led the Chargers to the Class A private school title.

Now, he is trying to do the same thing with the baseball team.

Like in football, Etheridge has a talented supporting cast around him, including power hitters Jacob Heyward and Daz Cameron.

“We have been a little better than I thought we would be,” Campbell said. “Our pitching has been better. We have a combination of seven guys that have been very solid for us.”

And the Chargers have had some impressive wins.

In the third game of the season, ELCA defeated George Walton Academy 5-4. It avenged the loss to GWA in the second round of the playoffs last season.

ELCA defeated Woodward for the first time in school history with a 4-1 win last week. The teams will play a rematch on April 11.

“The season is going really well,” Busscher said. “We are doing some things that we haven’t been able to do in the past.”

Last season, Etheridge played mostly shortstop. He saw some time as a relief pitcher.

To prepare for the season, Etheridge pitched on his summer team.

And the work has seemed to payoff for him and the team.

“I’m very pleased at the way the season is going for us,” Etheridge said. “This is probably the most fun I’ve had at playing baseball. I spent the summer working on my pitching. I’m somewhat surprised at how well I’ve been able to do.”

Campbell said that Etheridge is throwing in the upper 80s and has a really good curveball.

“He’s been throwing it hard,” Campbell said. “He has been a lot stronger than I expected. I think the biggest difference is that he is getting more opportunity this season. I think he has kind of surprised himself.”

Campbell said he is ready to see how the team will respond against some of the tougher competition. The Chargers have had only two games decided by fewer than four runs.

“We just have to continue to execute the small things,” Campbell said. “I’m looking for a little more consistency in our hitting, especially when we play some of the better teams in the state. So far, we have done well.”