Lady Tigers Take Fourth
Finishing fourth in the state is quite an accomplishment, but
the Commerce Lady Tigers must be forgiven if they wonder "what
if" after their fourth place finish in the Class A state
They were the only team to beat the state champions cross-county
rival Jefferson. And but for the luck of the draw, who knows.
"Knowing we beat them three times, regardless of them winning
the state, makes a difference to us. We beat the state champions
three times. That's pretty good," says assistant coach Kerri
But if the Lady Tigers had the Lady Dragons' number this year,
Calvary Baptist seems to have a knack for knocking off the Lady
Calvary knocked Commerce out of the 1999 state Class A tournament,
finishing second; the Lady Tigers won third. And Calvary handed
Commerce both of its losses in the 2000 state tournament last
"We didn't get a real easy draw right from the beginning,"
said Drew. Commerce lost 8-4 Thursday night to Calvary, beat
Mount Zion 6-5 early Friday morning, defeated Miller County 6-4
and then dropped a 10-2 decision to Calvary Baptist Friday night.
"I think if we had beaten them the first game, it would
have been a different story," Drew said.
Still, it's not all that bad a story as it turned out. In the
early part of the season, it didn't appear that the Lady Tigers
could make it to the state for the third year in a row.
"We knew the abilities we had returning," Drew recounted.
"We had three freshmen in the starting lineup who had never
played with the other girls. In the first couple of weeks, you'd
never have thought we'd go as far as we did."
The Lady Tigers jelled as a team and regained their form from
'99. They won the region. They won the sectional. Then they ran
CALVARY 8, CHS 4
Calvary plated one runner in the first, and the Lady Tigers tied
it in the bottom half of the inning. They repeated that in the
third, then Commerce went up 4-2 in the fourth, Calvary added
three in the fifth, then iced the game with one run in the sixth
and two more in the seventh.
Crystal Rainwater had two hits in four at-bats to lead the offense.
CHS 6, MT. ZION 5
On Friday, Commerce managed a 6-5 win in spite of not hitting
very well, Drew said. Still, the Lady Tigers jumped out in front
with four runs in the first inning. Mount Zion added one in the
bottom of the inning, and both teams added single runs in the
fourth. Commerce scored once in the sixth, Mt. Zion scored two
in the sixth and one in the seventh to make it 6-5.
Charlene Gaither, Ashley Evans and Shemika Reed had two hits
CHS 6, MILLER CO. 4
At 4:00 p.m., the Lady Tigers were visitors against Miller County.
They opened the game with two quick runs, then surrendered one
in the bottom of the first. Miller County took a 4-3 lead into
the seventh inning.
Lauren Ladd led off the seventh with a single. Loren Flint singled
and Charlene Gaither reached first on a fielder's choice, with
Flint nailed at third. Ashley Evans reached on a fielder's choice,
loading the bases.
Stephanie Rainwater's single scored two, then her sister, Crystal
Rainwater singled in a run as Commerce took a 6-4 lead.
"Then we went out and played some incredible defense,"
Miller County got two on with no out, but the next batter hit
a grounder to pitcher Elizabeth Roller, who forced the runner
at third. The next batter flied out, and the following batter
hit safely to left field, only to have the runner forced at third.
"Shemika Reed and Loren Flint played great defense,"
CALVARY 10, CHS 2
"They just hit the ball," Drew said of the final game.
Calvary scored six in the first inning, and the Tigers could
never gain any momentum. Commerce scored two in the bottom of
the first, and that was it for the offense.
"We had some good defensive plays; it would have been worse
without our defense," Drew said.
"The story for the whole tournament is that we didn't hit
the ball. Nobody really hit as well as they can or should have."
Drew said the Tigers were a "little disappointed,"
but overall, pleased with the year, in which they finished 25-10.
Not to mention reaching the semifinals in the state and beating
cross-county rival Jefferson three times.
take fifth in state tourney after 4-10 start
Remember the old adage: "it's not how you start, it's how
Clearly, the Banks County slow-pitch softball team is familiar
with the phrase.
Off to a 4-10 start this season, the Leopards battled back to
capture fifth place in the Class AA softball tournament in Columbus
this past weekend. The squad ended the season with a 16-14 record.
"I'm tickled to have a team that come from where they were
and finish as strong as they did," said Leopard head coach
Mike Gordon. "They fought every game. And they won the hearts
of a lot of people down there (in Columbus)."
Banks County won one game and lost two in the tournament.
The Leopards downed Macon County 10-9 in a Thursday thriller,
then lost to eventual state champion Irwin County 15-3 Friday,
before being knocked out of the tournament by Lumpkin County,
10-9, in an 11-inning Friday night heartbreaker.
VERSUS MACON COUNTY
Thursday's game provided dramatics that won't be forgotten in
Homer anytime soon.
Banks County entered its last at-bat down 9-5.
And with two outs in the seventh inning, the Leopards still trailed
But the Leopard despair soon turned to euphoria as Megan Williams,
who led her squad with three hits in the game, came to the plate
with the bases loaded, smashing a grand slam to knot the score
at nine. Her homer was followed by consecutive hits by Ashley
Reece, Ashley Freeman and Danielle Couch, who drove in the winning
"It was unbelievable," said Gordon, whose squad had
seven hits in the final inning. "The whole place was set
on fire. We had a lot of positive comments about the spirit of
Reece and Freeman had two hits apiece and Regina Veal was the
VERSUS IRWIN COUNTY
Class AA state champion Irwin County, which finished the tournament
without a loss, simply had too much firepower for the Leopards
"They hit it everywhere," said Gordon.
Reece led Banks County with two hits, while Freeman added a hit.
VERSUS LUMPKIN COUNTY
Again Banks County entered its final at-bat with a big deficit
and once again, the Leopards fought back.
Taffy Caruth provided the heroics this time, driving in two runs
on a two-out hit to tie the score at eight.
Neither team managed a run until the top of the eleventh inning,
when Banks County took the lead on a hit by Williams and a double
But Lumpkin County battled back with two runs on two outs in
the bottom of the inning, knocking the Leopards out of the tournament.
"Everybody in the complex was watching that game,"
said Gordon, who estimated that "about 500" people
surrounded the fences to watch the Friday night dramatics.
Lady Dragons claim softball crown
The Lady Dragons of Jefferson High School overcame a series of
late-season setbacks last week to win the school's first state
slow-pitch softball title. In fact, the crown is the first for
Jefferson in any girls' sport.
In the tournament's title game, Jefferson rallied with three
runs in the bottom of the 10th inning to defeat Bryan County,
8-7. Left fielder Staci Childress sparked the rally with a two-run
triple that tied the game with one out, and freshman Kenyotta
Beasley slapped a single to right field to drive Childress in
with the winning run. The two late-inning heroes shared similar
sentiments when asked about their contributions to the win.
"It feels really good," the soft-spoken Beasley said.
Childress was a bit more animated.
"It feels dadgum good," the junior said emphatically.
Though Beasley and Childress will long be remembered for their
game-winning efforts, the state title was easily a team effort.
Every player on the team who logged an at-bat recorded a hit
in the tournament, and all but three scored runs. Nine of the
Lady Dragons' 14 players drove in runs.
Plagued by long-ball flyouts in the 1999 tournament, the 2000
Lady Dragons were able to win largely by banging out ground-ball
hits. Of the team's 48 hits in the four games, 40 were singles.
The title game win over Bryan County set Jefferson's final season
record at 31-3, a school record for wins and the most wins in
2000 by any team in any classification. All three of Jefferson's
losses came at the hands of rival Commerce during the final week
before sectional play. The Lady Tigers finished fourth at Columbus,
beating Mt. Zion and Miller County, and losing twice to Calvary
The Lady Dragons started the tournament with a 3-0 blanking of
Treutlen Thursday. A 7-2 win Friday over Miller County guaranteed
the team no worse than fourth.
In Saturday morning's winner's bracket final, Jefferson struggled
both at the plate and in the field, but an early stake of seven
runs in the third inning was enough to hold off Bryan County,
7-5. Bryan dropped to the loser's bracket final, defeating Calvary
for the second time in the tournament, and the title matchup
Jefferson fell behind by five runs early, and it looked as though
a second game would be necessary to detemine the state champion.
But DeMaris Gurley's girls fired back, getting hit after hit
late in the game to edge back into contention. Down by a run
in the bottom of the seventh, the Lady Dragons were able to push
Sunny Bush around to tie and force extra innings.
The battle went back and forth in the eighth and ninth, but Bryan
broke through with a huge effort to take a 7-5 lead in the 10th.
Childress' triple drove in Molly Cleveland and Michelle Boring
to tie with one out. That spurred the Bryan coaches to pull in
their outfielders and walk the bases loaded, since a deep fly
ball would end the game. The strategy seemed to play right into
the Lady Dragons' hands, with the big bat of Annie Goza due up.
Goza had already launched a towering homer in the earlier game
against Bryan County.
Goza pounced on the ball, hitting it solidly but lining out right
at the Bryan County third baseman for out number two. The stage
was then set for Beasley's game-winning hit.
"This really hasn't sunk in yet," an emotional Gurley
said afterward. "We never got down. Even when we were behind
so much, I could tell from what the girls were saying that they
still believed they could win."
Gurley pointed to strong defensive performances by a number of
players, including outfielders Childress, Bush, Ashley Evans
and Lara Bridges. Evans had three catches over her head in game
three alone, and Childress came up with a run-saving grab in
the title game. Bridges threw a runner out at second on a base
hit to end an inning in game one.
Pitcher Melinda Floyd was nearly unhittable at times, as she
had been for much of the season. In 34 games, Floyd gave up only
26 walks, while striking out 31. Shortstop Lee DuBose capped
her sparkling season effort well, committing only one error during
The team's freshmen did well also, as Beasley recorded two put-outs
at the plate. Taryn Gurley threw a runner out while sitting to
help end a big inning.
At the plate, senior Julie Coile came through with a crucial
pinch-hit effort in the title game, and Stacey Anderson broke
out of a season-long slump with a pair of timely hits in three
at-bats. Brooklyne Marlowe added a clutch hit as well.
Childress led the team with six RBIs on seven hits, and Bush
hit safely six times. Boring and Coile each had three RBIs. Bridges
and Evans each scored four times, and Gurley and Floyd added
"It's really great," Gurley said of the team's win.
"It took us 20 years, but it was worth it."
Quiet bats deny Lady Panthers
The Jackson County slow-pitch softball team wrapped up its 2000
season last week in the state class AAA tournament in Columbus.
The Lady Panthers were eliminated from competition after losing
their first two games, 8-0 to Perry and 17-11 to Forsyth Central.
"Everybody down there was good," said head coach Clarke
Rainwater. "Going down there, we felt real good about it,
so we were kind of disappointed with not at least winning a game.
When we started playing, we just didn't hit the ball."
Jackson County scattered five hits over seven innings in their
first-round loss, with Brandi Barber the only multi-hit Lady
Panther in the game. The top half of Jackson County's order managed
only one hit.
Things looked promising early after senior April Cantrell reached
third on a first-inning triple, but she was stranded there. Perry
picked up four in the third, and the Lady Panthers were not the
same from that point on.
"We just seemed to tighten and not play real good ball,"
Rainwater commented. "We were just flat-out nervous."
Jackson County got behind early in game two, as Forsyth Central
picked up five runs in the first inning. The Lady Panthers fought
back with two runs, but Forsyth matched them to retain a five-run
lead, and stretched it to six going into the fifth inning.
The bats awoke for Jackson County in the fifth, as the team pushed
six runs across to tie at 8-8.
"We hit the ball and finally got things going with seven
hits in a row," Rainwater said. Carrie Hammond delivered
two RBIs in the inning, and Diana Robinson came through with
a clutch hit.
"They came right back and hit the ball, too. We had three
errors in the bottom of the fifth, and they got six runs. When
they came back and scored those six, that was just the end of
The game two loss was a much more even contest, with Forsyth
taking the 14-9 win. The Lady Panthers chopped out 16 hits in
West Laurens surprised many tournament watchers by winning the
state title after coming into the tournament at 17-10, while
the previously unbeaten North Forsyth finished third. 1999 champion
Appling County took second.
"Our defense wasn't bad," Rainwater continued. "We
just didn't hit anything. You're not going to beat anybody in
the state tournament if you don't hit the ball."
FAST-PITCH ON THE WAY
Rainwater indicated that Jackson County plans to offer both fast-
and slow-pitch softball beginning with the 2001-02 school year,
as a result of a Monday night meeting. Whether the school actually
fields a fast-pitch team will depend upon the level of interest
in the sport.
Madison County topples
Wesleyan 28-18 in biggest Raider win in years
Artist Norman Rockwell couldn't have painted a better homecoming
picture than the Raiders did in Danielsville Friday night.
Homecoming 2000 will go down as a thing of legend in Raider lore,
as Madison County pieced together a masterpiece, topping Class
A's seventh-ranked squad, Wesleyan, 28-18 in a win some in Madison
County are calling the program's biggest in well over a decade.
Faced with the biggest battle yet of the squad's resurgent season,
the contest with then-unbeaten Wesleyan gave Madison County the
chance to prove that they were every bit as good as their 7-0
mark indicated-and they did.
Not only did the squad move to 8-0 with the 10-point victory,
the homecoming triumph sent a message to those who felt Madison
County had coasted to an unbeaten record playing a "soft"
schedule of teams.
So many plots and subplots tied into the Raiders' toppling of
the Wesleyan squad, a team who outmanned Madison County by 23
There was the tenacious performance of the defense who withstood
a second-half surge by the Wolves and came up with several key
There was the Raider offensive line-guys like Dustin Walker,
Robert Geiger, Brandon Hayes, Chris Wiley and freshman Anthony
Tilton-blasting open holes against a defense which coach Tom
Hybl called the "best-coached defense we've seen" led
by Eric Broe, who has already committed to Florida State.
And there was Donny Stamper, who has been "Mr. Reliable"
virtually all year long. Stamper made his senior year homecoming
a memorable one, piling up 254 yards and finding the end zone
four times. And his two fourth-quarter scores won't be soon forgotten
by the Raider faithful.
With his team holding on to a four-point lead in the final period
of play, the senior running back helped save the Raider win.
The first was a 50-yard jaunt to keep the Wolves at arm's length
at 21-10. Then with the Raiders up 21-17 late in the contest,
Stamper iced the game with a fourth down, 23-yard romp with just
under two minutes left.
In the contest, the Raiders relied on the same formula that guided
them to their seven other wins during the 2000 campaign-getting
ahead early, controlling the ball and the clock and playing timely
Madison County shell-shocked the Wesleyan squad, jumping out
to a quick 14-0 lead, and then was able to cling to a slim four-point
edge in the third quarter before wearing down the Wolves in the
final period to secure the double-digit victory.
For the rest of this story, see this week's Madison County
fourth in the state
The sting of the final loss was obvious Friday night in Columbus
for Madison County. The Raiders were one win away from a state
semifinal appearance when Loganville shut the door on their title
Still, Raider head coach Doug Kesler said the disappointment
of this past weekend shouldn't diminish the accomplishments of
his team this year. The 26-11 Raiders finished fourth in the
state and claimed the Area 8-AAA championship.
"We went down there with aspirations of winning," said
Kesler. "And Friday night, it felt like somebody ripped
our hearts out. But in the not too distant future, they (the
players) will look back and see that fourth in the state was
a big accomplishment for our third year in fast-pitch....I'd
rather come in fourth with this group of girls than win the state
with any other group."
Madison County played four games in the Thursday-Saturday tournament,
winning two and losing two.
MADISON COUNTY 7 SAVANNAH CHRISTIAN 0
The Raiders opened the tournament with a 7-0 win over Savannah
Madison County scored one in the bottom of the first inning and
three runs in the fourth and six innings.
Heather Jones led the Raiders with two hits and two RBIs. Candace
Shubert, Brooke Kesler, Renee Mathews, Sheena Mason, Valerie
Norman, Amanda Lewis, Sarah Owen and Lauren Stopcyznski each
had a hit.
Lyndsey Barnette picked up the win, allowing just one hit in
seven innings, while fanning 12 batters and walking three.
LOVETT 3 MADISON COUNTY 0
Both teams struggled at the plate, managing just four hits apiece,
while both struck out seven times. But Lovett made their hits
count, taking advantage of some walks with some timely hitting
to capture a 3-0 win Friday afternoon.
Raider pitcher Sheena Mason gave up a couple of walks to load
the bases. And a Lovett batter smacked the ball to right field
to drive in the first run on the game. Lovett added two more
runs in the fourth inning on a two-out, two-run bloop single.
Madison County was led by Mathews, who had two hits. Bates and
Owen had one hit apiece.
Mason took the loss, giving up four hits and five walks in seven
innings, while striking out seven batters.
MADISON COUNTY 10 EASTSIDE 0
Madison County didn't let the loss to Lovett keep them down,
roaring back with a 10-0 win over fellow Area 8-AAA competitor
Mason bunted in the first Raider run in the top of the first
inning. And neither team managed to cross the plate for the next
But Madison County blew the game open with five runs in the top
of the fifth. Mathews drove Owen, who had reached on a bunt single,
for the first run of the inning. Bates then ripped a liner off
the third baseman's glove to drive home Jones, who reached on
an infield hit. Mason then smashed a line shot down the right
field line, which got past the right fielder. Mathews and pinch
runner Brittney Escoe scored to put the Raiders up 5-0. Norman
bunted Mason home for the final run of the inning.
The Raiders added four more insurance runs in the top of the
seventh. Bates drove Mathews in with a triple. Mason followed
with an RBI hit, accompanied with an error. Rebecca Booker then
drove home Mason with a single. Brooke Kesler then drove the
ball to right field and the ball again got past the outfielder,
allowing the final run to score.
"It was good to see the girls come back after we had just
gotten beaten by Lovett," said coach Kesler. "The girls
came back against a good team."
LOGANVILLE 4 MADISON COUNTY 1
Madison County immediately followed the Eastside game with a
showdown at 9 p.m. Friday night against Loganville, the eventual
state runner-up. Madison County fell behind early and never recovered
in a 4-1 loss.
"Loganville is a good team with athletes that give everybody
problems," said Kesler. "But we were able to pretty
much control those girls. They just happened to put together
some hits with their walks. We felt we were just as good as they
The only scoring in the game came in the third inning. Loganville
scored all of its runs with two outs on two RBI singles and a
two-run hit. Two walks and a hit batter aided the rally.
Madison County answered with an RBI single by Mathews in the
bottom of the inning, with Jones crossing the plate.
Mason pitched two and two-third innings, giving up four runs
on four hits and four walks, while striking out three.
Barnette pitched four and one-third innings in relief, allowing
just one hit and no walks, while striking out five.
SENIORS PLAY FOR FINAL TIME
Friday's loss marked the final game for eight Madison County
seniors. They include: Renee Mathews, Heather Jones, Shelley
Bates, Sheena Mason, Valerie Norman, Rebecca Booker, Lauren Stopcyznski
and Brittney Escoe.
"We lose a big part of our team," said Kesler of next
year's outlook. "But we've got girls coming up who will
help. We'll be O.K."