Strong Rock Christian School’s 2023 varsity baseball team has brought home a state championship.
It was an incredible May night in the North Georgia mountains. Strong Rock had just lost the second game in a three-game series, leaving them 1-1 against Bethlehem Christian Academy. Both the Patriots coaches and players dug deep and committed to winning the third and final game to claim the Georgia Independent Athletic Association (GIAA) Class AAAA state championship. And that’s exactly what they did. In just five innings, Strong Rock won 11-1 over Bethlehem to take the title of state champions.
The victory was the biggest in the history of Strong Rock Christian School as it marks the school’s first team sport championship and an exclamation point for head coach Toby Evans.
“Not a bad way to go out,” Evans acknowledged in a recent interview.
The 20-year educator left the dugout that spring night for the last time as head coach of the Patriots baseball team upon his appointment as high school principal at the Locust Grove school.
Before the 2022-2023 school year, Strong Rock was a Georgia High School Association (GHSA) member in the Class A Private category. Upon moving to the GIAA, the athletic arm of the Georgia Independent Schools Association, the school is in the AAAA classification as the largest school in the organization. However, competition at the regional level did not change much because many of the Patriots’ opponents made the move at the same time.
Despite having reached the playoffs regularly, 2023 was the first year the baseball team won its region. The 30-game regular season schedule consisted of a three-game series against each opponent, and the Patriots won at least two games in every series.
The toughest postseason challenge came from Bulloch Academy in the second round of the playoffs. According to Evans, Strong Rock, the host team, lost the first game and had to “scratch and fight” to win the other two.
From there, it was a semifinal matchup against Tattnall and then the championship series against Bethlehem.
“Our season will be remembered not for our rings or for our record, but for our character and how we played the game,” says Adam Brown, a senior at Strong Rock this school year. “The baseball team became a family. We are a blessed group of guys who got to experience something special that many teams set out to do but fall short. All glory goes to God!”
Senior Cooper Culberson echoes Brown’s sentiments. “We are family, and when everyone accepts their role and is all in, big things happen!”
As the 2023-2024 school year gets underway, Evans has stepped aside, and Jason Godbee, who was an assistant last season, will lead the team in the Spring. He will be without three starting players, including two pitchers, Zack Wallace, playing baseball at Mercer, and Grant Miller, playing baseball at Shorter, and shortstop Isaiah Pou, playing baseball at Oglethorpe.
Even with so much change, the Strong Rock Patriots have many players from this history-making team returning, including Culberson, who has already committed to play baseball at Mercer in the fall of 2024.
By Monroe Roark
Photo credit: Daniel Stancil