By CHRIS GOLTERMANN, CowetaScore.com
Kelley Lynch and Charla Echols may have followed in the footsteps of two very talented older sisters that experienced success at every level softball can offer — including as club-level teammates — before moving onto current college careers.
But much as the 2017 high school season proved last fall, the duo continues to pave their own path to greatness.
On Friday, the younger Coweta County duo added “national champions” to a growing list of softball accomplishments while also playing as teammates during a 6-4 victory by the Georgia Impact-Lewis in the title game of the prestigious 18U Premier Girls Fastpitch national tournament in Irvine, Calif.
Lynch, heading into her senior year at East Coweta High, and Echols, who is on her way to Michigan State after graduating among Northgate High’s Class of 2018, were at the forefront in the finale while pitted against the OC Batbusters, a California-based program that had won 18U national titles in 2014 and 2015.
It was the first a team from east of Mississippi won the PGF 18-under national championship.
The Batbusters had already gone 2-0 against the Georgia Impact including a victory in the finals of the Boulder IDT tournament earlier this summer.
Echols finished a 2-for-3 effort with Friday’s biggest hit in the bottom of the sixth while trailing 4-2. Her bases-clearing double that eluded a diving attempt in left-center that gave the Impact a lead for good.
From there, Lynch was able to hang on in a 138-pitch outing by recording two of her four strikeouts in the top of the seventh before inducing a game-ending groundout.
Both teams traded a pair of runs in the first before settling in. A 2-2 game held through five innings, with Lynch able to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the third before retiring the side in order in the fourth.
Echols walked in her first at-bat and scored on a two-run double that tied the game in the bottom of the first. After grounding out in the third, she sent hits the opposite way in her third and fourth at-bats.
Down 4-2 following a two-run single that eluded Echols’ diving attempt at the third-base bag, an overturned call in the sixth on a close play at first base allowed Echols to come to the plate for the Impact with the bases loaded.
She wasted no time taking her first offering to the gap in left-center.
The pair were among three local standouts playing for the Impact this summer while joined by recent East Coweta graduate Olivia Davis. Before getting ready to leave for the West Coast, however, the incoming Georgia State freshman broke her arm while making a play at in a tournament north of Atlanta and was unable to attend the event.
In California, the Impact went undefeated at 9-0 while averaging over seven runs per game and allowing fewer than two, with four of the wins ending by mercy rule.
While Echols will be reunited with sister Ebonee at Michigan State this fall, Lynch and East Coweta prepare to defend last year’s Class 7A championship with a lineup that lost three talented seniors, including Davis, to graduation.
Lynch has already committed to play at Auburn.