CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. — The five seniors on Gordon Lee's softball team had not learned to walk the last time the school failed to make it to the GHSA state championships in Columbus. The rest of the roster hadn't even been born yet.
The host Lady Trojans were overpowering as they swept both games of Wednesday's doubleheader against Telfair County 9-0 and 11-0 in the second round of the Class A public state playoffs. With the series win, Gordon Lee advanced to the quarterfinals for the 17th consecutive season.
That double-elimination tournament is Oct. 24-26 at the Columbus Softball Complex.
While Gordon Lee softball has become one of the most successful sports programs in the area — it has won a state championship eight of the past nine seasons — coach Dana Mull recognizes each team is unique.
"Each team is motivated differently, and you play to their strengths and weaknesses," Mull said. "This year, I feel like we have a great combination of power hitting and speed at the top of the lineup and two pitchers we can count on. I'm proud of how this team has gotten up in the last couple of weeks and finished strong."
Emma Langston and Emma Minghini turned in two overwhelmingly dominant performances from the circle for Gordon Lee (29-1). The two combined to pitch 10 innings, striking out 19 batters while allowing one hit apiece with no walks and just three baserunners total.
A first-inning, two-out single to left field in the opener was the only ball hit out of the infield by Telfair County (19-11) in either game.
"When there's confidence in your pitchers, everyone else plays with confidence," Mull said. "The girls know that with those pitchers out there, we always have a chance to win the game."
Gordon Lee's offense was electric as well, scoring in every inning in the first game. The big blow came in the first inning in the form of a two-run homer by senior Kirby Bradley that gave the Lady Trojans a 3-0 lead. Langston turned away the final 13 batters, and Gordon Lee won by the mercy rule in five innings.
Game two was an encore performance of the first, both offensively and in the circle. Playing as the visitors, Gordon Lee sent 11 batters to the plate in a five-run second inning. After four straight singles to start the inning, Telfair County compounded the problem with three errors to make it 6-0 .
Minghini took care of the rest. The junior lefty gave up just a bunt single in the second inning, then struck out the side in the fifth to complete another victory via mercy rule.
Despite being in Class A, Gordon Lee plays a grueling schedule against some of the toughest teams in the state. The Lady Trojans have wins against schools from every classification, including Carrollton, which is ranked third in Class 5A. Their only loss was to Ringgold, which is the top-ranked team in Class AAA and is also headed to Columbus.
"Our schedule makes us mentally tougher and tougher all around," Mull said. "We know we've faced the best we could possibly face, and having that big-game experience will help us in the state tournament."
Contact Kevin Llewallyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.