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‘Contagious’ hitting lifts ELCA into state finals

Jeff Hurndon Photography
ELCA outfielder Dazman Cameron throws in a flyball during the top-ranked Chargers 24-5 win over Darlington. At the plate, he contributed four hits and three runs.

Jeff Hurndon Photography ELCA outfielder Dazman Cameron throws in a flyball during the top-ranked Chargers 24-5 win over Darlington. At the plate, he contributed four hits and three runs.

McDONOUGH — During batting practice before its Class A private school semifinals game against Darlington on Tuesday, Eagle’s Landing Christian catcher Cameron Ragsdale could sense something different about his teammates.

The senior said they “hit good during BP”, and it seem to transition into the game.

ELCA had a power surge at the plate in a 24-5 win over Darlington to clinch the best-of-three series to earn a spot in Saturday’s championship game.

The Chargers exploded for 20 hits, including a 14-hit, 17-run inning in the sixth to blow the game open.

“Oh my gosh, that was a lot of fun,” Ragsdale said. “We hit good in BP, and I didn’t think Darlington had much pitching left. In baseball, hitting is contagious.”

ELCA coach Doug Campbell said Monday’s loss in Game 2 of the series left a bad taste in the teams mind. The Chargers were up 9-3 only to lose 10-9 to force a decisive third game. ELCA, the top seed in the private school tournament, won the opening game 8-3 to win its eighth straight game.

Campbell said that Tuesday game reminded him of a 29-run game the Chargers had against Landmark Christian in 2005, in which they produced a 20-run inning.

“This was the only thing close to that game,” Campbell said. “I think they kind of ran out of pitching. (Monday) night sort of shook us up some after blowing that lead in the fifth inning. I could see our intensity level go up some.”

Etheridge led the way with four hits, three runs and a team-leading six RBIs. In 38 at-bats, the Chargers produced 21 hits and drew six walks with only one strikeout.

Josh Smith grabbed the win for the Chargers after giving up only five hits in five innings with five strikeouts.

“I’ve been confident in my teammates all year,” ELCA outfielder Jacob Heyward said. “We have been very focused on playing hard.”

Mount Paran, which is located in Kennesaw, is the overall No. 3 seed in the tournament. The Eagles defeated George Walton Academy to advance to the championship. Game times are 4 and 7 p.m. on Saturday with an ‘if’ game on Monday. All three games would be played at ELCA.

“This is an awesome feeling to play for a state title,” said pitcher/shortstop Dalton Etheridge, who led the football team to the state title last fall. “This might be a better feeling than playing in the (Georgia) Dome.”

Campbell is hopeful the team can continue its momentum and hitting into the Mount Paran series. This is the first meeting between the two teams this season, but ELCA swept Mount Paran last season in the second round.

“Baseball is a little different sport,” Campbell said. “You can hit one game, but it doesn’t mean it will carry over. You can’t will yourself to a win in baseball. One pitch can turn everything around.”