ELCA makes softball history with fourth state title

Eagles Landing Christian Academy made history Saturday by becoming the first fast-pitch team to win four state championships in a row.

Freshman sensation Megan Betsa pitched a one-hitter and helped her own cause with a homer in the 6-0 win over Gordon Lee in the Class A championship at Columbus.

The state's other champions are Collins Hill in AAAAA, Marist in AAAA, Columbus in AAA, and Buford in AA.

Betsa got strikeout No. 12 on the game's final out, with catcher Julia Echols and the rest of her teammates piling on each other on the pitcher's mound in celebration. Despite ELCA's past success, the McDonough school's title run was a mild surprise after the graduation of Hope Rush, who was one of the most dominant pitchers in state history. Rush is a freshman at Georgia Tech.

"It's kind of a surreal feeling right now," said Echols, who has committed to Georgia.

"I'm just proud of the team for pulling together and winning it all against the odds. Everybody kind of gave most of the credit to Hope the other years. She's a great player, but we wanted to prove we could do it on our own, too."

ELCA's Symone Ball led off the bottom of the first with a double and scored the game-winning run on an RBI single by Echols. Betsa had a clutch defensive play in the top of the fourth, diving to catch a botched sacrifice bunt and throwing to first base for a double play. Several minutes later, Betsa stepped up to the plate and launched the team's first homer of the tournament, over the center-field fence to clinch the win.

"Megan got mad because some people were trying to rattle with her," ELCA first-year coach Lacy McClendon said. "She did something about it, putting everything she had in that swing. She's a tough competitor, and will be someone special to watch over the next few years."

Other metro teams

Marist 1, Whitewater 0: Cameron Taylor beat out a throw to home in the bottom of the ninth inning to secure the win. For Marist (29-3), it was the third out of four tournament games to go to extra innings, and the Catholic school's second championship in a row.

Marist's Lori Spingola, who has committed to North Carolina, was perhaps the most outstanding player in Columbus. Over a total of 35 innings, Spingola posted a pair of no-hitters, and only surrendered one hit with 15 strikeouts and six fielding assists against Whitewater.

Buford 9, Rockmart 0: Alysha Rudnik, who is committed to Georgia Tech, saved one of the best games of her heralded career for her last. She had three hits, including a solo homer and double. Karly Fullem hurled her third shutout in five tournament games for Buford (25-5), which has claimed three state titles in a row.

"That homer was a big blow, and set the tone for the game," Buford coach Tony Wolfe said. "That's the kind of performance you expect out of a big-time player who has started every game since her freshman year."

Collins Hill 4, Houston County 1: With the Eagles down to their final four outs, Sammy Lenahan had a bases-loaded triple in the win. It was Saturday's third consecutive win for Collins Hill (35-4), which came out of the loser's bracket to capture the Gwinnett County's first state championship since 2006.