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ELCA wins fourth straight softball title



Members of the Eagles Landing Christian Academy softball team pose Oct. 24 with the championship trophy after dispatching Gordon Lee in the Class A title game 6-0. Winning it’s fourth title in a row made ECLA Georgia’s first fast-pitch softball team to do so.

MCDONOUGH — With the last three state titles, the Eagles Landing Christian Academy girls softball team nonetheless wasn’t expected to pull it off again.

Gone was Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year Hope Rush, along with her 41 home runs and 0.19 ERA, both state records. Gone was the coach, Stan Burton, who oversaw those three titles.

When ten players showed up for tryouts, first-year coach Lacy McClendon – herself with little experience at the varsity level – didn’t cut anyone. It would be difficult enough with only one substitute.

But senior leadership and a fiery freshman helped lead Eagles Landing on another championship run, with the Chargers becoming the first fast-pitch softball team in Georgia high school history to claim its fourth consecutive title.

“For the first four or five weeks of the season we didn’t really talk much about winning state again,” said McClendon. “We took it one game at a time.

“Because of the small number, some thought we wouldn’t have a winning season. The Lord blessed us with no major injuries. The negativity actually fueled the girls to prove the skeptics wrong.”

In the title game against Gordon Lee, freshman pitched Megan Betsa showed the Chargers far from Hope-less. In addition to her 12th strikeout ending the game, Betsa finished the fourth inning by diving to catch a botched bunt and throwing to first to double off the runner. Minutes later, she blasted her team’s first home run of the tournament over centerfield, giving herself all the run support she’d need in the 6-0 win.

“Megan got mad because some people were trying to rattle her,” McClendon told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “She [put] everything into that swing.”

ELCA is a Christ-centered college preparatory school affiliated with Eagles Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough. McClendon credits the school’s environment with drawing her team closer.

Senior Julia Echols, a Georgia signee, challenged her teammates during devotion one day to always represent Christ on and off the field.

“She went on to tell them to lose with dignity. Even if we did not win, we would have an opportunity to share Christ with others,” recalled McClendon.

“We were a family. It’s not just about softball. That’s what made this team so special.”