Area Sports...

April 11, 2001

Dragon pitchers post 30 strikeouts in 12 innings
Shane Wilburn must certainly have a sore hand.
In Jefferson's last two baseball games, the senior catcher has been on the receiving end of 30 strikeouts recorded by Dragon pitchers in 12 innings.
Jefferson will need even more strong outings from its pitching staff this week, as the team faces region opponents Wesleyan and Providence, as well as the ranked Buford Wolves, considered to be a contender for a state title. Buford hosts the Dragons Monday at 5 p.m.
"The next two games are big for us," head coach Chuck Cook said of this week's games. The Dragons were scheduled to take on Rabun Gap today at 5 p.m. in Dillard.
The latest dart-throwing Dragon was senior Corey Hill, who piled up 17 strikeouts in seven innings during an impressively overwhelming 8-1 win at Commerce. Through the first four innings, Hill faced 13 batters, 11 of which struck out. He yielded a walk in the second inning and a single to Brody Bearden in the third.
Bearden accounted for two of the Tigers' three hits, including a leadoff rocket to left center field in the sixth. Hill capped the game by striking out the side in the seventh.
"He got tired late," Cook said of Hill, "and they hit the home run on him. His pitching is outstanding right now." Hill is second on the team with an earned-run average of 1.06, and is 5-0 for the season. Only Christopher Wheaton's ERA is lower, at 1.00.
The pitching talent doesn't stop with Hill. Junior Kyle Potts has struck out 33 in 27 innings, and Wheaton 15 in seven innings. In a 12-1 blowout of Lakeview Academy last week, Potts smoked 13 in five innings.
"Overall, we just came in and played the way we should," Cook said of the Lakeview win. "Kyle pitched the way he's capable of pitching."
As for his infielders' recent lack of action, Cook isn't concerned about the pitching performances lulling players to sleep.
"The more they see balls in game action, the better they're going to be, but it doesn't concern me that much. I'm just glad the pitching is going the way it's supposed to."
BATS STRONG, TOO
The Dragons' bats seem to be going the way they should as well. The team batting average is .330, and three players - Josh Nabors (.477), Ryan Gurley (.413) and Jeremy Smith (.410) are over .400 so far.
Wilburn leads in runs batted in, with 17, and Potts is close behind at 15. Nabors has crossed the plate 19 times, and Gurley 16. Ben Songer has four homers thus far, Hill three, and five others two each.
Nabors was 3-for-3 with two stolen bases against Lakeview, and Wilburn 2-for-2 with a double, a triple and two RBIs. Hill batted 2-for-3 and drove in three. Songer went yard with the bases loaded to drive in four.
WIN AT COMMERCE
Nabors started the scoring early at Commerce, with a homer over the left-field fence in the first inning. Wilburn and Hill followed with singles, and Wilburn scored when Smith reached on an infield error.



Leopards on a region roll
With the season half-way behind them, the Leopards will look to better their 7-2 region record during the second half of the season.
"If we can duplicate or improve our record in the second half of the season, we will be in good playoff contention," head baseball coach Mike Williams said.
The Leopards (11-3) have won five straight region contests, including an 11-4 victory over Rabun County Monday afternoon.
Banks County was scheduled to take on Lumpkin County Wednesday afternoon. The Indians are the only region team Banks has yet to face.
"Lumpkin is a big one for us," Williams said. "If we can go away from that one 8-2, I'll feel real good about the second half."
Friday night, the Leopards will travel to Apalachee for a 5 p.m. Banks won their last contest against Apalachee. Monday, the Leopards will host Towns County.
"We won (against Towns) last time but we didn't play too well," Williams said. "If we play better, we can beat them."
VS. RABUN COUNTY
A seven-run sixth inning helped the Leopards pull out an 11-4 victory over Rabun County.
"We had guys in scoring position throught the game," Williams said. "Getting over 10 hits in a game is successful."
Leopard junior Corey Sims pitched a complete seven innings for Banks County, giving up only four hits and bagging six strikeouts.
"Corey pitched pretty well," Williams said.
Rabun County picked up one run in the top of the fifth inning that tied the score at 4-4. But in the bottom half, Banks County decided to take the lead. And take it they did.
Hank Jones led off with a deep fly ball to centerfield that skipped off the centerfielder's glove. Jones was able to make his way around to third.
Ross Oliver followed with a single to third. Drew Gowder stepped up next and lined the ball down the third base line to score Jones and move Oliver to third.
Oliver went in to score after a passed ball on the next batter. Duran Bellotte was walked, putting runners at first and second.
Clint Angel stepped up with one out and hit a pop fly to shallow left field that was dropped by Rabun's shortstop. The play loaded the bases.
Gowder was run down on a botched squeeze play before Joe Krause was hit by a pitch to load the bases again.
With two outs, Eli Cooper hit a two-RBI single up the middle to give Banks an 8-4 lead. Casey Murray came in to run for Cooper.
Rabun's pitcher tried to pick Murray off but threw the ball away, allowing Krause to score.
Then, after going in the hole 0-2, Joseph Whitlock battled back to a full count before smashing a two-run homer near the centerfield fence. The shot gave the Leopards an 11-4 lead.
Banks County scored its first runs in the bottom of the opening inning. Jones singled in Krause to give the Leopards a 1-0 lead.
Rabun County came back in the top of the third inning to go ahead 3-1. But Banks County was able to retake the lead in the bottom half of the inning.
Cooper singled in Krause to cut the score to 3-2. Several batters later, Ross Oliver singled in a run to tie the game at 3-3. Gowder followed with a ground ball up the middle that allowed a run to score, giving Banks the 4-3 lead.
VS. RIVERSIDE
Banks County again had a big sixth inning against Riverside last Wednesday to take a 6-2 victory.
Bellotte scored first in the inning on an error to give Banks a 4-2 lead. Murray followed, scoring on Angel's fielder's choice. Cooper nail a solo homer to give the Leopards the 6-2 win.
Murray took the win against Riverside and Whitlock nabbed the save. Whitlocked had nine strikeouts in three and two-thirds innings.





Tigers Swing And Miss Twice In 8-A
Region play is heating up for the Commerce Tigers. The Tigers will play against Buford Wednesday, April 11.
"We go to Buford at a tough time. We are licking our wounds," said Coach David Cash. "They are supposed to be good, real good, but we are looking forward to playing them," he said.
The Tigers then travel to play Lakeview Academy Monday, April 16.
The Commerce baseball team took a pristine 2-0 region record into last week's play and won one but dropped two games, bringing their region record to 3-2.
April 5, Commerce hosted its second meeting with Rabun Gap. In their first meeting the Tigers had to fight back from a 12-1 score after three innings to beat the Indians 15-12. This meeting, the Tigers jumped out early and held on.
Rabun Gap committed errors on the first four batters for Commerce in the first. Brody Bearden scored when Craig Henderson hit into a fielder's choice. No other runs crossed the plate, despite having the bases loaded with only one out.
Bearden struck out the side in the visitors' half of the second.
In Commerce's half of the third the Tigers took over the game. Commerce scored eight runs on four hits, including two doubles. Rabun Gap committed three errors. Chad Jordan collected two RBIs with a two-out double.
After three innings the Tigers led 9-0.
Rabun Gap scored its only run in the fourth after a Commerce error.
Commerce's last turn at bat came in the bottom of the fourth inning. They scored three runs in the fourth after a double by Wes Pricket and triples by Scott White and Bearden.
Bearden struck out the side in the top of the fifth to finish with seven strikeouts in five innings. Commerce won the game 12-1.
"We played much better against Rabun Gap the second time around. We put them away like we should," said Cash.
Comerce Vs. Jefferson
County rival Jefferson came to visit April 6, and brought fire in the right arm of hurler Corey Hill. Hill recorded strikeouts for the first nine outs of the game.
Bearden connected with a single in the third and was the only Commerce batter to get a hit in the game.
Jefferson scored two runs in the first. The first came off a Josh Arbors home-run. Shane Wilborn scored after a wild pitch moved him to third.
Jefferson scored three in the fourth after two errors.
Ryan Gurley hit one beyond the fence to score two of the runs.
Bearden led off the fifth with a solo homerun. It was his second hit of the game. Bearden was two-for-three on the day.
Jefferson scored four more runs, one on a Ben Songer home run, before it was over and beat Commerce 8-1.
The Dragons' Corey Hill struck out 17 Tigers. "We ran into a buzz saw," Cash said. "We took a lot of strikes and swung at some poor pitches but he pitched a fine game," commented Cash.
Dane Cotrell went five innings for Commerce and gave up just two earned runs. "He pitched well. So much attention went to Hill but we are real proud of how Dane pitched," said Coach Cash."




Ron Garren relieved of coaching duties
The Jackson County Board of Education voted Monday night to extend mathematics teacher and boys' varsity basketball coach Ron Garren's contract for the 2001-02 school year, but declined renew his supplemental coaching responsibilities.
"He is tenured as a teacher," superintendent Andy Byers said of the board's decision. "The decision has been made, and it's time to move on in the best interest of the Jackson County School System."
The 5-0 vote came after a two-hour executive session, half of which included Garren, athletic director Greg Lowe and principal Jim Gurley. Garren indicated earlier this week that Lowe, Gurley and Byers all had recommended that the board allow him to retain his coaching duties, though Byers would neither confirm nor deny that during a telephone interview Wednesday morning.
"We had a long discussion about it," said board chairman Kathy Wilbanks, "and out of respect for coach Garren and his privacy, I would prefer not to discuss the issues involved."
Garren and others close to the situation have spoken of a list of complaints supposedly compiled by a member of the board from conversations with parents, but no one would go on record to confirm that the list exists.
Board member Ed Tolbert declined to comment on the decision, and Tim Brooks did not return a phone call. Stephanie Kitchens was not contacted.
"It was a very hard decision," board member Jill Elliott said, "the hardest one I've ever had to make."
Byers said the coaching had been posted on the school's website early Tuesday morning.
"We will be in the process of taking applications," Byers continued. "No one has anyone in mind at this point."
GARREN RESPONDS
Garren responded to the decision during a Tuesday afternoon telephone interview.
"I want to thank Greg Lowe and Jim Gurley and Andy Byers for believing in me and recommending me under some duress.
"Jackson County has the reputation - and it seems that they want to continue to have the reputation - that board members will determine who does what on an athletic basis. BOE members have the right to discuss their issues, but to not take the recommendations of the athletic director, principal and superintendent shows a lack of respect for those positions."
Garren said he believes he's leaving the school's basketball program better than he found it.
"I'm proud of what we've been able to accomplish in six years. This is a much more attractive job now than when I interviewed for it six years ago. The program is respected throughout Northeast Georgia, and I give that credit to the kids. They've done everything I've asked them to do.
"As for me personally, if there's a head coaching job out there that I can pursue, I will look in to it. Then again, I may move to another county as a math teacher and support my daughter during basketball season like I should have been anyway. This might be a situation where I just need to support her for the next couple of years." Garren's daughter is a sophomore at Winder-Barrow High School, where he coached prior to his position with Jackson County.
The Panther boys were 17-11 in 2000-01, qualifying for the state tournament for the first time since 1964. Jackson County was 30-21 over the past two seasons, after enduring a 2-22 1998-99.
"I don't harbor any ill feelings at all toward the high school, the administration or any of my players," Garren continued. "They've given me all they could, and that's all that you can ask of them."


Raiders split contests over the week, stay at .500 mark
The diamond Raiders neither gained nor lost ground during the week, topping Jackson County and Eastside 5-0 and 9-7, while falling to Winder and Stephens County 5-4 and 2-0.
The team's offense hit its low point in their contest against the Indians, mustering only two hits in the game, but rallied in Tuesday night's win over Eastside, pushing nine runs across the plate against the Eagles, AA runners-up a year ago.
Madison County will look to get above the .500 mark this week with a two-game road stint, traveling to Hart County Thursday and then to Franklin County on Monday.
WINDER-BARROW 5,
MADISON COUNTY 4
Raiders rallied from four runs down late in their Wednesday matchup against Winder-Barrow but surrendered a last-inning run to fall 5-4 to the Bulldogs.
Winder built a 4-0 lead in the contest, picking up two runs off an RBI single in the first, an insurance run in the fifth off an error and then another run off a sixth inning base hit.
With their backs to the wall the diamond Raiders mounted a furious comeback, tying the game in the bottom half of the sixth.
Pou put the Raiders on the scoreboard first in the inning, scoring a run after a throwing error at home, making the score 4-1. Stephens Seagraves drove home the second run of the contest for Madison County with a sacrifice fly to score Adam Nash, cutting the lead to two. Hardigree then pulled the team within a run, coming home after Eric Power grounded into a fielder's choice. Power then picked up the last run, stealing second, going to third on a wild pitch and then came home off an infield hit by Dustin Dinsmore.
Chad Youngblood then came in to work the final inning and surrendered a one-out double to the Bulldoggs' Ron Martin and then WInder's go-ahead run as Matt Simms looped an RBI single into LCF.
MADISON COUNTY 5, JACKSON COUNTY 0
Jackson County's Panther baseball team rolled into Danielsville in a four-way tie for the top spot in Region 8-AAA, but rolled out with a 5-0 loss at the hands of the Raiders.
Raider pitching allowed just three hits in the game, and faced the minimum 18 batters through six innings. Jackson County tried to rally in the seventh, but stranded two on base thanks to a game-ending diving catch in right field by Adam Nash.
Youngblood got Madison County on the board early, pushed across in the first inning by Seagraves.
Travis Calloway and Tony Tittle each added runs in the second, and the Raiders threatened to blow the game out when Nash was hit by a pitch to load the bases. A 4-6-3 double play got Jackson County out of the inning without further damage.
Things were relatively quiet for a couple of innings, though Madison County a base runner in the third and two in the fourth. Seagraves scored after singling and being balked to second on a pickoff attempt. Dinsmore pushed the run across on an infield out.
The fifth run came an inning later, when Pou singled and was balked to second, then scored on a single by Youngblood.
STEPHENS COUNTY 2, MADISON COUNTY 0
Madison County's bats went silent in a 2-0 loss Friday night to Stephens County in Toccoa. The Raider offense was no-hit for five innings and only mustered two hits in the shutout, the squad's eighth loss of the year.
Starter Chad Youngblood turned out an impressive start, working six innings surrendering the two runs, scattering five hits while striking out four but fell victim to the Raider's struggling production from the plate.
Stephens County picked up their only scores in the fourth inning, getting a pair of two-out RBI singles.
Madison County did have their chances to get on the scoreboard on two occasions during the contest.
In the third inning, the Raiders had Eric Power on third with one out but a botched suicide squeeze killed the scoring opportunity.
Then in the sixth, Nash broke up Stephens County's no-hit bid with a lead off single and later advanced to third with only one out. However, Hardigree followed with a ground out and Nash was later tagged out trying to come home on a wild pitch, ending the inning.
MADISON COUNTY 9, EASTSIDE 7
The Raiders built a 9-3 edge after six innings in their Tuesday night win over Eastside and held off a furious final inning rally by the Eagles to pick up their eighth win of the year.
The team built their lead with some timely hitting including homers by Nash and Youngblood and a clutch pinch hit RBI by Andy Coile late in the contest.
Eastside threatened in the final inning with a grandslam but Madison County was able to close the door on the Eagles for the win.
Raider starter Hardigree picked up the victory from the mound for the Raiders.



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