After 30 years in the sports writing business, I have seen a little bit of everything.
Some good, some bad and a little in between.
I have watched hundreds of student-athletes sign college scholarships and some even defy the odds and go on to collect a paycheck in the pros.
I have been in the business long enough to see some high school athletes go into the coaching business and pass on their skills to the next generation.
I also have been around the block long enough to see former high school athletes now watch their own children compete at the high school level.
One story that has to be near the top of the amazing accomplishment list is the East Coweta softball team’s two-year run.
The Lady Indians have compiled a 68-2 record over the past two years in the highest level of competition in the state of Georgia.
Those staggering numbers are something that happens once in a lifetime.
It’s the type of record and accomplishment that makes sports fans use words like dynasty.
Last year’s undefeated record put a big bullseye on the backs’ of this year’s team and although they stumbled twice, it was just a bump in the road.
With last year’s senior softball players Rachel Vaughn, Olivia Davis and Ashlynn Gunter signing Division I scholarships and leading the team to a state title and undefeated record, head coach Franklin DeLoach didn’t want to compare the 2018 club to last year’s team and who could blame him?
What they did was a coach’s once in a lifetime dream.
Still, East Coweta was easily the favorite to repeat, especially with Kelley Lynch back for her high school swan song.
If there is a better high school pitcher in the country, I want to see her.
The Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year didn’t disappoint often pitching a no-hitter, sometimes a perfect game and most often finishing with double figures in strikeouts.
Many times she blew the ball past batters like they were standing still.
When teams bothered to pitch to her, she also did damage from the plate.
Lynch was a warrior once she stepped in the pitching circle.
Lynch rewrote the school record book, setting new records—both pitching and offense.
After the Lady Indians made it to the Elite 8, East Coweta had to battle weather delays and the realization that Lynch was going to have to pitch every inning of every game after Aniston Wright was sidelined for the Elite 8.
Lynch and Wright gave the Lady Indians a 1-2 punch this season from the circle during the regular season and even through the early rounds of the postseason.
In Columbus, Lynch’s dug down deep with plenty of stamina helping lead the Lady Indians to victories over Grayson, and Lassiter, and Mill Creek twice, including in the championship.
Her strikeout numbers were eye-popping as she set down 56 in the four-game Elite 8.
East Coweta went into the championship against Mill Creek determined to throw the knockout punch and they delivered.
The Lady Indians scored four runs in the first two innings and that was more than enough as the squad mercy ruled Mill Creek 9-0.
For the Lady Indians, it was a different players stepping up at the Elite 8 and the long ball was a major part it.
Caroline Lively’s homer in the bottom of the fifth in the second meeting with Mill Creek officially gave the Lady Indians the mercy rule championship.
Olivia Cook also blasted a homer in the team’s 8-0 victory over Lassiter and Ansley Gunter homered in the first meeting between the Lady Indians and Mill Creek.
Just like a Hollywood script, this season was full of drama as the Lady Indians again climbed to the top of the mountain when many skeptics thought there was no way they would repeat.
Maybe those on the outside didn’t give the Lady Indians much of a chance, but the coaching staff never stopped believing.
DeLoach, and assistants Mark Bowles and Brandon Blair bring plenty of passion to the field.
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There is always good chemistry among those young ladies that don a East Coweta softball jersey.
With only Lynch, Carmen Prior and Kris Odum graduating from this year’s team, the Indians will again be in the conversation to win a third straight title.
Prior and Odum join Lynch as a player who has been around the program four years and will be missed . It’s hard to replace seniors who have given so much over the past four years.
Will East Coweta win it all again.
Only time will tell, but I sure wouldn’t bet against them because after all, East Coweta doesn’t just rebuild, they reload.
(Doug Gorman is the sports editor of the Newnan Times-Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org).