Area Sports...

 August 2, 2000


Commitment Key To CHS' Softball Success, Coach Says
Two straight trips to the state tournament have the Commerce High School softball team with high goals to shoot for.
But the team will not be able to use any of the play in the past two years to be successful this year, coach Donnie Drew said.
"We've got to get everybody's mind on softball," Drew said. "They've got to get their minds focused. Past success doesn't help us at all."
Due to the realignment, Commerce will play in a smaller area this year. Jefferson, Buford and Rabun Gap make up the entire area schedule in 2000. The top two teams from the area will advance to the sectional tournament.
"We've got a schedule that's a little weird this year," Drew said. "We've got several tournaments with bigger schools. And we only have the three subregion games."
The team lost Amanda Stevens and Jennifer Seagraves to graduation last year. This year's seniors will be a big key to the season, Drew said.
"The success we have this year will depend on seniors," Drew said. "They had better be contributing every ballgame.
"If they aren't at least as good and hopefully better than last year, we won't have much success."
The seniors on the team include: Heather Stockton, El-izabeth Roller, Shemika Reed, Loren Flint and Lauren Ladd.



BCHS adds pads to gridiron practice
The Banks County High School football team added full pads and contact to the regiment this week. Teams are required to wait one week before going with live action.
"Things have been going pretty good," coach Rance Gillespie said. "We're just trying to keep getting better."
Banks County will revisit its jamboree opponents of 1999 this year on Aug. 25. After hosting Fannin County and Dawson County last year, the Leopards will travel to Blue Ridge for the 2000 meeting. Banks County will open its season Sept. 1.


Ryan Crane top rookie at Caraway
PENDERGRASS' Ryan Crane continued to chip away at Casey Yunick's lead in NASCAR Slim Jim All Pro Series rookie points Saturday with a 12th-place finish in the Caraway 200 in Asheboro, N.C. The finish was the best among only three rookies competing in the $41,750 event at Caraway Speedway.
With only seven races remaining on the series' schedule, a larger turnout of rookies is imperative for Crane to have a shot at rookie of the year honors.
"I don't know where they all went," Crane said about Caraway's slim field of rookies. "I need them out there, to get between me and [Yunick]." Ten points are awarded to the top rookie in each race, with each following rookie earning one less point. Crane picked up the maximum 10 points Saturday, but Yunick's 14th-place finish earned him nine, for a season total of 85. Greg Pope is second at 77, and Crane third with 75.
Yunick qualified 17th Saturday to Crane's 22nd, but the Pendergrass youth quickly made up the gap and closed to within a couple spots of the rookie leader. Yunick overcame a near-disaster on lap 44 of 200, when his right front tire came off. Yunick somehow managed to get back on the track and finish well despite the incident.
Crane said this week that he expects to have his best engine back in time for next weekend's Cintas 200 at the half-mile Greenville-Pickens Speedway. The engine was first damaged at Memphis Motorsports Park in May, when an ignition fire ended one the Fresh Frozen Foods Chevrolet's best runs of the season with less than four laps to go.
The motor was repaired and returned to the car for the Myrtle Beach 250 two weeks ago. Though the event was rained out, Crane was able to get in two qualifying laps. The engine blew on the second lap.
"We had a pretty good car this week," Crane said. "We were down on horsepower since we lost our best engine last week, so it killed us in qualifying. We've been running on our backup motor since May, but we're planning on having the best one back in there for Greenville."
Greenville-Pickens qualifying for the August 12 race is set for 6 p.m., with green-flag racing at 8 p.m.
"We're looking forward [to Greenville]," Crane said. "We've been there once, and we have a good feel for the track." In April, Crane finished 18th in a 43-car field in the B&B Pools 200 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway.
After Greenville, Crane will travel to Bristol to participate in a huge week of racing. The Slim Jim All Pro Series will be in action Wednesday, August 23. Other NASCAR series will hit the track later in the week, topped off by the Winston Cup Series' Goracing.com 500 Saturday.
The Crane family won't stick around Bristol very long, as they'll make the trek to Chicago for a NASCAR RE/MAX Challenge Series event Friday. The 1.5-mile Chicago Motor Speedway has been picked up by the Winston Cup Series for their 2001 schedule. The RE/MAX Challenge Series features cars similar to those in the Slim Jim All Pro Series, and the tour boasts 16 stops in Missouri, Colorado and Wisconsin in addition to Illinois.


Local softball, football teams preparing for season
Softball teams from Jefferson and Jackson County were scheduled to join their football counterparts in preseason practice this week. Early-week rains, though a welcome sight, washed out much of the teams' much-needed practice time.
Coach Greg Lowe's Panther football team began 7:30-1:30 practices Monday in cooler temperatures, while softball coach Clarke Rainwater readied his field for a late evening practice. Many of the starters who helped post the top record in their region last year will be absent when the season gets under way in a few short weeks.
Outfielders Krystal Britt and Abrielle Varnum will leave big holes in the Lady Panthers' lineup, and the shoes of Amy Nelms and Paige Scogin will also be hard to fill. Part-time pitcher Carly Parr was also lost to graduation.
Even with the loss of five seniors, Rainwater can take comfort in the fact that three of his four most consistent hitters will return. Jessica Banks, April Cantrell and Megan Elliot all batted over .500 last year, as did Britt, who led the team in batting average, on-base percentage, hits, at-bats and doubles. Cantrell will likely bring the biggest bat to the Lady Panther plate, having led Jackson County in home runs and runs batted in.
The situation is somewhat different at Jefferson. The Lady Dragons return all but two players from a team that qualified for the state sectional tournament. The graduation of second-baseman Misty Lance leaves a hole in an infield that played tight defense, and Shanda McClure will be missed in the outfield. Otherwise, DeMaris Gurley's team should look much like its predecessor, which blew opponents away on offense and played strong defense, particularly late in the year.
On the Dragon gridiron, Bob Gurley's squad extended their afternoon practices this week, as teachers returned to the classroom in preparation for Friday's first day of school.


Madison County Spurs win district, advance to state
The Madison County Recreation Department recently hosted the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association's Seventh District Women's Open Softball tournament. Nine teams from north Georgia competed for the right to advance to the state playoffs.
The Spurs started their championship quest Saturday morning with a relatively easy 8-1 victory over Ben Hill from Atlanta. Leading batters in the win were Melissa Malair, who went 3-for-4; Dee Epps and Tara Thomas, who each went 2-for-3; and Amy Lance and Jeannette Looney, who went 2-for-4.
The next round saw some shaky defense by the home team lead to several unearned runs for the Gwinnett 1 team. This, coupled with three consecutive three-up, three-down innings for the Spurs, led to a 12-7 defeat, putting Madison County in the loser's bracket. Leslie Davis and Beth Holloman led the offense with 2-for-3 performances.
The Spurs needed six straight victories to win the tournament. Gainesville 2 was the first victim, downed by the Spurs 18-6. Lance went a perfect 4-for-4, plus a walk to set the tone for the offense. Epps was also perfect at the plate, going 3-for-3 with a base on balls. Adrienne Holloman was 3-for-4, while Malair, Courtney Isbell, Looney, Thomas, Davis, Holloman and Trisha Stephenson each had two hits.
In another offensive shootout Monday, the Spurs out-gunned Forsyth County to claim a 16-14 decision. Leading the way offensively was Jamie Williams, who was a perfect 3-for-3. Lance, Jamie Payne, Davis, Looney, Stephenson and Malair hammered out two hits each. This victory kept Madison County alive, but to take the title, they needed four wins on Tuesday.
Ben Hill fought their way through the loser's bracket to set up a rematch from the tournament's first game. The Spurs never trailed, advancing to another round with a 19-7 win. Looney was 4-for-4 and Isbell finished 3-for-3 to lead the attack.
The Spurs took the lead in the third inning in their next matchup with Toccoa/Stephens County. Offensive leaders were Davis and Epps, who went 3-for-4. The only team left now was Gwinnett 1, the team that defeated the Spurs earlier in the tournament.
The Spurs got all of their runs in the first two innings and held on for a 7-6 win. Isbell led the attack, going 3-for-4. The Spurs qualified for the state tournament with the win. The squad then had to play the "if game" to be District 7 champions.
The Spurs blew out Gwinnett 1, finishing them off quickly at 13-2. Isbell went 4-for-4, while Payne and Davis went 3-for-4.
Throughout the run for the championship, the infield sparkled defensively, backing up pitcher Beth Holloman, who walked only five batters out of 278 hitters. The outfield turned in strong performances as well, cutting off hits in the alleys and throwing out runners at home and on the bases.
The team is coached by George Holloman. He is assisted by Myron Stephenson.


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