If there’s anyone who understands the process of building something from the ground up, it’s Chestatee softball coach Adam Rich.
In his three years at the helm for the Lady War Eagles, Rich has gradually watched this fastpitch program progress into a viable postseason contender. Two seasons ago, his squad was left looking up with seven wins. Now at 20-6, they are in contention for a Region 7-AAAA title with the series set to begin at 5 p.m. against No. 1 Marist on home soil.
An upset of perennial Marist would lock up the No. 1 playoff seed for Chestatee.
“Every year we’ve progressed,” Rich said. “We got eight wins, then 11, and now this year 20. A lot of it’s just them knowing what to do and then being able to go out and afterwards work with their parents as well, and their travel teams and then put them together -- and thanks to my coaches too, giving us a lot of effort. …The nice thing now is we have juniors that get onto the young girls and know exactly what we’re supposed to do.”
Rich’s seven juniors and one senior, a flock that has stuck with their coach throughout this long process, now realize they too see the finish line ahead.
“We started getting ancy and excited about it,” said Rebecca Eddins, the team’s lone senior. “We finally realized we’re a winning team and not just a losing team like we used to be. It was a really good feeling.”
One component to the War Eagles’ success has been their ability facilitate any role according to Rich. Despite losing six starters to graduation, Rich has seen Georgia Patterson, Kala Sargent and Bailey Mason successfully make the transition from infield to outfield, and he has seen his freshman catcher Katilyn Babb develop quite the reputation from behind the plate.
“We literally just all kind of meshed,” Rich added. “We have two infielders who are willing to play outfield, and been playing great for us. Our freshman catcher (Babb) who has come in has been phenomenal. She’s been great, throwing people out, keeping runners at bay. And it’s been great just having everybody just playing their parts and sticking together. And it’s been phenomenal just watching them.”
“Everything’s coming together really well, and our whole team, everybody knows their role and when somebody is down, then somebody’s always going to pick them up,” Elizabeth Eddins said.
The War Eagles lack the long ball with just three home runs, but have clearly played small ball well and have gotten solid pitching from sisters Rebecca and Elizabeth Eddins according to their coach.
The Lady War Eagles are also a close-knit bunch, the main thread being senior Rebecca, who is the team’s top hitter. Eddins (.362 ) leads the order with six doubles, a triple, two home runs and 19 RBI. Little sister Elizabeth is not far behind, batting .360 with nine doubles and 14 RBI.
The sisters also make up the pitching order with a combined 1.70 ERA. Rich noted Rebecca’s (2.03 ERA, 89 strikeouts) ERA has seen a significant drop within the last year.
The luxury of having some senior guidance from Eddins this year has a nice bonus for the War Eagles’ skipper and his younger pawns. Rebecca Eddins put that leadership on display Monday night during the Lady War Eagles’ 4-3 win over Blessed Trinity. A pair of errors resulted in the Titans getting a run, and Eddins took action.
“I didn’t have to call time or anything,” Rich said of the moment. “She got them together, calmed down and got out of the inning, and what could have been a bad inning for us, we put a bandaid on it with one run and we were good to go. ...I can save my timeouts for when I really need them, and the senior leadership has been great.”
Rich’s seasoned Lady War Eagles are proven winners entering the postseason, splitting wins with Class AAAAAAA Peachtree Ridge, and have gone toe-to-toe with Region 7-AAAA juggernaut Marist. Rich’s batters have also faced four future division I pitchers as well.
Rich hopes their strength of schedule is enough preparation for the playoffs, a less familiar area for his unit.
“You hope that it lends itself” Rich said of the scheduling. “When you’re playing Marist, who is the No. 1 team in the state, and we hung with them the first game even though 8-3 was the score -- It was 5-3 for a long time. And even here (at Chestatee), 8-0, it was close. ...It hopefully prepares you”
Knowing this will be Rebecca's last shot at a deep playoff run, Elizabeth as well as her teammates want to help her sister get there.
“It’s really important to all of us as a whole,” said Elizabeth. “And you know that it’s Becca’s last chance, and you know that it’s her last time. Everybody knows we get an extra chance, and we have another year. If you’re a senior, you don’t get that chance, and you know that it’s over. So our whole team, even our juniors, we’re stepping up and playing together to get that.”