David Emanuel Academy has won its second state championship in softball. The Lady Eagles and their coaches, Gabrielle Story and Laura Cardell Webb, secured the 2021 GAPPS Division I Fall Fastpitch State Championship on their home turf this past Saturday, needing only two of a three-game series to beat Central Fellowship Academy.
The team finished this season with a 13-7 record. Along the way, they beat Vidalia Heritage, Edmund Burke Academy, Central Fellowship, Covenant Academy, Flint River Academy, and Griffin Christian.
Coach Story looks back on the year, reflecting on the team’s dynamic that got them to championship contention in the first place.
“Before the championship, I’d say our best game was Thomas Jefferson at home a few weeks ago, even though we lost. We played hard for the entire game, fought back, and never gave up,” she said.
That game, an age-old rivalry to boot, served its purpose in teaching David Emanuel to fight when their backs were against the wall and would come in handy this past weekend for all the marbles.
“Today, if you ask me what our best game was, my new answer would obviously be our championship games against CFCA. The team worked together as a whole and fought for what was theirs. They never gave up, even when we had a bad inning and got behind.”
While this season was certainly riddled when success, culminated by a second softball state title since 2016, it didn’t come without challenge. Story says the Lady Eagles struggled at the beginning of the season due to players being out with COVID. This, in turn, made it difficult to settle into a rhythm.
Nonetheless, the 2021 group had a unique ability to just play the game—and as any sports fan knows, that’s when the magic happens.
“This team’s strong suit was absolutely their ability to have fun,” Story said. “Sometimes, I’ll be honest… It drove me crazy because I’m so competitive, but it often brought me back down to earth and helped me remember that it’s okay to have a good time. On the flip side, there were a few players who are so hard on themselves just like I was in school, and I really tried to work with them on loosening up some.”
As a whole, this year’s squad on paper doesn’t look like it had a “dream year” with an unblemished record. That’s because that’s truth. Admittedly, be that as it may, the team had its “ups and downs,” as Story says, but all in all, the Lady Eagles got the job done. They’ve got a banner to hang in the gymnasium, some hardware to add to the school’s trophy case, and rings on the way to prove it. The best part? They’ve got memories of a lifetime, too. For that, Story and Webb couldn’t be prouder to call this group their own.
With the championship win, two seniors—Sarah Jo Perkins and Alana Tant—ended their careers on the best note possible.
However, the coaching staff say this was a total team effort with girls stepping up across the board from the beginning of the season to its end. Jaylin Hall, for instance, had two bombs during the state title games, and Kyli Bell was unshakeable on the mound.
Joining those four girls in the winning moment were 11 other Lady Eagles: Emma Proctor, Maddie Perkins, Sara Cate Fennell, Ava Johnson , Chirsten McCoy, Bree Wimberly , Jada Lewis, Henzli Hall, Bailey Ware, Jayden Slater, and Addalyn Terwilliger.
The team also won the region title earlier this year, and they made it to the state championship by eliminating Covenant Christian last weekend.
Photo is courtesy of Gambrell Photography.