High School Sports

Stratford looking to break through with first GHSA softball title

Stratford shortstop Autumn Land and the Eagles are headed to Columbus for the GHSA Class 1A private school championship tournament.
Stratford shortstop Autumn Land and the Eagles are headed to Columbus for the GHSA Class 1A private school championship tournament. wmarshall@macon.com

The Stratford Eagles are no strangers to postseason success. After all, they won four straight GISA titles from 2009-12.

But in 2014, Stratford moved to the GHSA, and while it has experienced some postseason success, it has yet to accomplish the ultimate goal: a state title.

“It’s a little tougher in the GHSA,” said head coach Jeff Treadway, who was at the helm for all four of the GISA titles.

Even though a state title isn’t under their wings yet, the Eagles (15-9) have made a name for themselves in the GHSA. When Stratford faces Wesleyan at 11 a.m. on Thursday in the Class 1A private school championship tournament, it will be the Eagles’ fourth appearance.

“We feel like, just as a program, we kind of know what to do,” Treadway said. “We feel like we play well this time of year. We’re able to have fun instead of have too much anxiety about it.”

And the record proves that. Stratford has won nine of its past 11 games, with the two losses coming to Tattnall Square and Mount de Sales by one run each.

The beginning of the season wasn’t as smooth for the Eagles. They started 5-6, including several bad losses — 16-0, 10-1 and 12-4.

“We were pretty mediocre,” Treadway said. “We just improved a lot over the last month, I would say, just playing a lot more competitive brand of softball and making fewer mistakes now and making timely hits.”

Treadway said defense has been the key to improved play, even though he believes the team is simply better in every facet. He said the Eagles are fundamentally better — catching the ball and throwing it to the right bases.

One major addition has been the return of senior pitcher Tori Dover, who missed most of the season. In eight games, she boasts a 4-1 record, 0.34 ERA and 16 total hits allowed.

“She’s a senior, and she has a lot of experience,” Treadway said. “We’ve been pitching a freshman in Kenna McElmurray, who has done a tremendous job. She pitched every inning for us up until about two, two-and-a-half weeks ago. She’s done a great job for us, and really, she’s gotten us to this place where we are.”

McElmurray has appeared in 18 games, finishing with a 9-5 record and 3.51 ERA. Wesleyan has a 24-5 record, and Treadway said having two pitchers will take the load off McElmurray, but he’s unsure who will start the series.

“We’ll use both pitchers, but (having Dover) gives us two pitchers,” Treadway said. “It gives me somebody to insert in the game if one of them gets in trouble or tired.”