There's never exactly a good time to face the Gordon Lee Lady Trojans when it comes to the state playoffs, but for teams that do have to take on the Chickamauga softball juggernaut, it's probably best to catch them any other time except right out of the gate.
Since the GHSA split Class A into separate divisions - public and private - for the state tournament in 2012, Gordon Lee has taken their dominance in opening rounds to a different level.
The Lady Trojans have played opening round series in the Class A Public School state tournament in 2012, 2013, 2016 and 2017, sweeping all four opponents and doing so by a combined score of 102-3. Throw in 2014 and 2015 when Gordon Lee was reclassified into Class AA and it's six opening round sweeps by a combined 151-4.
The most recent two opening round victories came Wednesday evening at Crystal Springs Field as top-seeded Gordon Lee picked up a 4-1 win in Game 1 against 16th-seeded Schley County before the Navy-and-White obliterated the Lady Bulldogs in Game 2, 20-1.
With the win, Gordon Lee will pack its bags for Columbus for the 15th consecutive season under head coach Dana Mull. Their lowest Elite Eight finish in those 15 years has been third place (2003 and 2005), while they have 12 total appearances in the state championship game with seven state titles. Gordon Lee has played for the state title in each of the last 11 seasons.
Gordon Lee 4, Schley County 1
The Lady Trojans showed a bit of rust from a near two-week layoff since winning the Region 6-A title on Oct. 6, but they got a solid pitching and clutch hitting from senior Canaan Burnett to keep the Lady Bulldogs at bay in the opening game of the doubleheader.
Burnett's sacrifice fly plated Reagan Thompson with the game's first run in the bottom of the first inning and her one-out run-scoring single in the third brought in Gracey Kruse to make it 2-0.
Faith Alexander drew a two-out walk in the fourth and swiped second base. Thompson drew a walk before Kruse hit a hot shot to first that was misplayed, allowing Alexander to scoot home with the third run. Burnett capped the scoring by leading off the fifth inning with a solo homer.
Burnett allowed just five hits, walked one and struck out 10 in the circle, including three big K's in a row after Schley had put what would have been the tying run on at third with no outs in the top of the third inning.
She also got help from her defense. Kruse, patrolling in centerfield, threw out a runner at third base and later doubled up a runner at second after catching the first out in the top of the seventh.
The Lady Bulldogs would later get a run on a Gordon Lee fielding error with two outs in the seventh, but Thompson would end the game after throwing out a runner at third at the end of the play.
Burnett and Alexander each had two hits, while Thompson and Kruse had one apiece.
Gordon Lee 20, Schley County 1
Any rust was long gone by the time the first pitch of the nightcap arrived. Playing as the visitors in Game 2, the Lady Trojans, pounded out 19 hits and took advantage of six Lady Bulldogs errors.
Gordon Lee (30-3) broke things open with five runs in the top of the first before adding four more in the second. Two more runs in the third built the lead up to 11-0 before the Lady Trojans put up a nine-spot in the fourth.
Schley (17-13), who managed just two hits, once again pushed home a run in its final at-bat.
Paxton Grimes homered as part of a 3-for-4 performance. She drove in three runs and scored four times, while Burnett was 3-for-3 with two runs and two RBIs. Katherine Grace McElhaney went 2-for-2 with three RBIs. Thompson, Kruse and Janie Durham each drove in two runs in the rout, while Kirbie Bradley and Emma Minghini each collected one RBI.
Minghini was the beneficiary of all the run support. The freshman struck out five and did not walk a single batter in her four innings in the circle.
The Lady Trojans will get a major test right off the bat in Columbus as they will face Georgia Military College Prep at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 26. The Lady Bulldogs are currently ranked No. 6 in the Score Atlanta Class A Public School poll, while Gordon Lee is ranked No. 1 and is riding a 16-game winning streak.
The two teams are quite familiar with each other when it comes to Columbus.
In 2012, GMC scored a 2-1 win over Gordon Lee in the winners' bracket semifinals, only to lose to the Lady Trojans in the championship finals, 6-4 and 4-1, after Gordon Lee battled back through the elimination bracket.
One year later, the Lady Bulldogs beat Gordon Lee in the winners' bracket final, 1-0, but once again the Lady Trojans won their way back into the state championship where they beat GMC, 3-1 and 2-1.
Last season, GMC faced Gordon Lee in the winners' bracket final again, winning the game, 5-2. But once again, the Lady Trojans rallied through the elimination bracket to earn a spot in the finals where they broke the Lady Bulldogs' hearts for a third time by winning 6-5 and 7-2. That 5-2 GMC win also marked the last time Gordon Lee lost to another Class A team, be it public or private.
GMC won the Class A Public School state title in both 2014 and 2015 while the Lady Trojans were in Class AA.