Over the years, Chestatee’s Elizabeth Eddins has learned to keep the majority of her focus on the fun of the game, rather than herself.
While one of the toughest competitors for the Lady War Eagles and their staple in the pitching circle, the senior could be seen making sure the morale is high in the dugout and on the field during games. If a teammate makes a play, she’s right there to congratulate them.
Win or lose, Eddins just takes joy in being a part of a game that she says “runs in her blood.”
“She works hard, she goes hard at everything she does,” Chestatee High softball coach Neil Armstrong said of Eddins, a star pitcher who is also an encouraging assistant coach on the diamond. “When one of her teammates makes a play, she is as happy for them as she would have made the play herself. ... As far as loving the game, I’ve never been around a kid like that.”
Still, the opportunity to pad her individual stats from time to time is warranted for the senior. And in recent weeks, Eddins joined an exclusive club amongst high school pitchers.
The Georgia Military College pledge notched career strikeout No. 300 in a Sept. 12 victory over Class 6A Gainesville, an achievement she admitted was rarely a thought after reaching the 100 pinnacle as an eighth grader -- before going back down to zero at the start of her varsity career.
However, she could sense something special was brewing that afternoon on the mound.
“My curveball was working pretty good that day, and was really feeling it in warmups,” Eddins said.
The moment itself was bittersweet, added the pitcher, who was actually fixated on something else entirely. The game was an emotional rollercoaster for Eddins, who had unintentionally injured her catcher the inning before. One misfire resulted in her teammate’s finger catching the brunt of a dropball pitch.
“I was almost 100 percent sure I broke her thumb,” Eddins recalled. It was supposed to be a riseball and it was a dropball. ...I’ve never done that to somebody before. Everyone was like, ‘congratulations!’ And I was worried that my catcher was still hurt.”
Worries turned to laughs afterward. Eddins was surprised with a celebratory banner and applause from her coaches and teammates during a brief pause in the third inning of the non-region game. As a commemoration, coach Armstrong handed the 300th strikeout ball to Eddins’ father before letting her get back to work on the mound. There was just one small problem ...
“I (had to tell them), ‘uh, I kind of need another ball,’” Eddins laughed. But I’m really glad that I have the sign and the ball to commemorate the moment.”
Eddins also racked up 28 strikeouts for the Lady War Eagles (7-13, 4-6 Region 7-4A) in two region wins against Blessed Trinity this past week.
“She’s that competitor too in the circle, when it gets tough,” Armstrong added. Couple of times, Blessed Trinity, had runners on second and third with one out and she pitched her way out of it. ...She doesn’t get rattled. If she misses a spot and they get a hit it’s like ‘OK, on to the next one.’
Eddins (7-5) strikeout total to date is up to 346 — and counting.
And yet, this monumental accomplishment — let alone the 2018 season — for Eddins was one that almost never was.
One of three seniors and four returning starters for the Lady War Eagles, Eddins and her teammates were faced with one of the toughest predicaments months prior. In the offseason, former head coach Adam Rich stepped down from his position, while a non-existent junior varsity program and lack of participation in summer workouts nearly brought the Chestatee program to a grinding halt.
“They were all telling us not to stress, telling us that we were gonna get enough people. Then come to summer ball in June, and we only had 2-3 girls actually showing up for workouts,” Eddins said
Eddins, along with a few teammates rallied. Aside from making their rounds in the community, Eddins recruited friends in the school, while enticing others with encouragement, and the news that the team would get new uniforms.
One by one, the numbers grew. Eddins said the majority of the team this year are newcomers to the sport. The entire outfield is revamped with freshman Morgan Hunt leading the way at center field.
“Every person who came out was a small victory,” she said. And our way to entice them to stay was be positive. If we get a ball caught in the outfield, we’re all cheering and super excited, just because positivity is one of the main things that has kept this whole team together.”
By Aug. 8, Chestatee had nine players, just enough to field a team. Eddins could only express her gratitude for the first-year coach Armstrong, who instead of forgoing the fall season decided to stick with the process for the sake of his upperclassmen.
“It’s really rewarding for him to come in and be that kind of coach, especially coming in to our situation,” Eddins said. “It could have been easy for him to say, OK we’re not gonna have a season and let’s focus on next year. But it just means a lot that he would do that, just for this year’s seniors.”
Eddins, once part of a 20-win program two years ago beside her older sister, Becca, is suddenly in the midst of a rebuild. While not what she expected, Eddins wouldn’t change a thing.
“Just seeing the smiles on my teammates’ faces whenever they light up, was just the best thing,” she said. “It seems like it would be a letdown, but to be honest, I could not have asked for a better senior year so far, because it’s taught me how to build my character. It’s been so rewarding for me.”