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ECI Softball Takes State!

By Justin Gray

State Champions. There is nothing better in sports than to be a champion, most never experience a state championship, or even get close to one. To say this is special is an understatement, for all of the hard work and long hours of practice to finally pay off there is no better feeling. All the years of just falling short and getting so close is all worth it once you do it.

The ECI Softball team left home this past week with a chance to win their first state title in school history. Their game one matchup was Bowden. The Lady Dawgs got one run in the first and second inning and rode the arm of Pitcher Charla Clifton until the end. After five innings of giving up no runs and having only a 2-0 lead, the Lady Dawg offense came through with big hits and knocked in three runs in the sixth. Clifton finished the outing with seven innings pitched surrendering two hits and no runs. The Lady Dawgs took game one 5-0.

Game two was a matchup against Hawkinsville. This game was similar to how game one went. The Lady Dawgs got one in the first then added two in the fourth and one in the fifth. Being up 4-0 they rode Clifton’s arm to another shutout victory. Clifton finished game two with seven innings pitched, giving up three hits and no runs. The offense was led by the big bat of Jayna Kearson who had two hits and a run batted in. Game three was for a chance to play for the title against a tough Lanier County squad. In this game the Lady Dawgs got out to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning. It remained scoreless until the fifth inning when Lanier County knocked across two runs and went up 2-1. The Lady Dawgs tied it up in the sixth and this game remained 2-2 as they went into extra innings. It took ten innings, but the Lady Dawgs fell short 3-2. Hope wasn’t lost because you aren’t out until you lose two games, so they would have to win one loser’s bracket game and then beat Lanier County twice in the championship.

The loser’s bracket game was against Georgia Military College. The Lady Dawgs rolled behind Clifton’s arm and the bats of Kearson and Shayla Stephenson, both had three hits. The Lady Dawgs won this one 7-2. Now they could taste a title, two wins against Lanier County and they can be crowned state champs.

Game one lived up to everything it was supposed to as nothing was decided after seven full innings and they were headed to extra innings again with the score 0-0. In the eighth inning, the Lady Dawgs rallied and had runners on second and third when Shayla Stephenson hit a pop-up to shallow right field and the second baseman misplayed it allowing a run to come across. They finished it off in the bottom of the eighth to secure the first victory.

Now, it all came down to one game, winner take-all, the Lady Dawgs were just a few innings from glory. They just needed to put together a solid team game to win it all. This game got off to a hotter start than the other as ECI pushed one across in the first inning and took a 1-0 lead early. They rode that one run behind another dominant performance from Clifton. It was 1-0 all the way through, with neither team budging until the seventh inning came. In the seventh inning, the Lady Dawgs rallied and scored three runs and increased their lead to 4-0. They were three outs away from a state championship. The Lady Dawgs retired the side and were State Champions at last! They came back from the loser’s bracket, and won three games on the same day to take what they came for!

This team was the definition of resilience. The Lady Dawgs finished off their amazing run with a 28-6 record, a region championship, and most of all a state championship! The Crossroads Chronicle would like to congratulate the 2022 ECI Softball Team on their incredible title!

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