Three’s a charm, unless the first time is sweeter.
Union Grove High School’s softball team can attest to that, as the team clinched their first Class 5-A Georgia High School Association championship title last month.
Not only was the win a historic one for the school, but it was an emotional one, culminating a year’s worth of hard work and dedication.
“The championship was accomplished through the hard work that the team has put in the last several years,” coach Rod Pipkin said.
Union Grove played Pope High School as their last opponent and championed the team — 1-0 and 4-3 — in a double elimination tournament.
Although the outcome of the team’s efforts this year was different, Pipkin said the team enters each year with the same mindset — the ultimate win.
“Every year the expectation is the same,” he said. “Get to the Elite 8 then play well there to win the championship.”
Their journey to the top, however, as Pipkin said, has been fraught with disappointment, close ties and frustration.
This is proven by their record number of close calls.
“The school has been in existence for 13 years,” he said. “We have been to the Elite 8 seven times, four out of the five last years. We finished third in 2010 and fifth in 2011.”
The composition of the team is certainly a key aspect that has paid a role in their victory.
In the moments leading up to the championship win, an effort between Brittani Crawford, Jackie Tanner, Madison Moore, Katie Spinks and Megan Betsa put the icing on the cake.
“Our core players have been together for several years now so we are very familiar with each other,” Pipkin said. “We have the best pitcher in the state and some exciting younger players that carry the load offensively.”
Pipkin, who has been head coach for the past four years, said the team will continue to relish in the victory they have accomplished.
“The championship feels nice,” he said. “We have already ordered state championship T-shirts and rings.”