CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. - When asked to describe what makes Emily Armour tick, Gordon Lee High School softball coach Dana Mull has a quick answer.
"Well, she's goofy," Mull says with a laugh, which in turn draws a wry smirk from the latest in a long line of Lady Trojans pitching aces.
Goofy she may be, but when the game starts the junior is all business in the circle. Add elite competition and Armour is nearly unhittable, a trait first seen as a freshman when she pitched a no-hitter in the Class A state championship series and seen again last week when she shut out multi-time state champion Buford.
"Some people just have what it takes to be a big-time pitcher, and Emily has it," Mull said, getting serious. "Everybody has something that drives them a little bit, and that's the thing that drives Emily. I sometimes have to get on to her about being ready for the games that aren't considered as big a game, but I don't have to say a thing to her on the big games. You can see it as soon as she starts warming up that she wants to prove a point and she doesn't plan on being hit."
The easygoing Armour just shrugs her shoulders when asked what gets into her when facing a big challenge. When pressed, though, she finally came clean.
"I've never really played against them, so I wanted to show them we're just as good as anybody," she said. "I know we're a small school, but I wanted to prove a point that we're just as good as they are. I guess I like it when it gets intense, but you can't let yourself get pressured.
"Of course, I didn't really do anything by myself. This team is amazing."
Added Mull: "Well, I think you got their attention."
After serving as the team's No. 2 pitcher behind Kalei Kimbrell as a freshman, Armour stepped to the front last year to lead Gordon Lee to another title in the program's farewell to Class A, going 18-3 with a 0.84 earned run average. She's been even better so far this season, starting 5-1 with a 0.50 ERA and allowing only 11 hits while striking out 52 in 28 innings.
Mull, who has coached five Class A pitchers of the year, said Armour has everything it takes to rank with the best.
"She's just a natural," Mull said. "She's got good speed, but she's also got good spin on the ball. You've got all kinds of pitchers who can spin it and you've got all kinds who can throw it hard, but it's rare to get one who can do both. I've been so fortunate to have had a stud pitcher every year I've been here, and Emily is as good as any of them."
Armour credits brother Ryan with helping instill her ultracompetitive nature, though even in describing their competition she threw in a dig.
"I've always beaten my brother in everything," she said, laughing. "But he's my biggest fan and I really do owe him a lot."
Armour isn't about to let the team's heavy graduation losses and move up to Class AA derail the dynasty. With her dominant pitching and an influx of talented young players, the top-ranked Lady Trojans are prime for another long playoff run.
"Everyone we have this year has stepped in and are comfortable in their roles," Armour said. "We're just as good as the last group. I think we can do it and we will, and we're prepared to give it all we've got to get it."
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.