Area Sports...

March 20, 2002

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Leopards head into region battles
Banks to travel to Dawson, host GAC
The Diamond Leopards’ season is about to get a whole lot tougher.
After a handful of pre-region games, Banks is poised to go into a difficult region schedule.
The Leopards have faced two region opponents already but are about to take on some of the top teams in the area.
Friday, Banks will travel to Dawson County for a 5 p.m. game against a team they split wins with last season. Dawson County defeated East Hall 9-8 Monday. East Hall took a trip to the final four last year with basically the same team the Vikings have this season.
On Monday, the Leopards will host GAC, arguably one of the top teams in the region.
The Leopards took their first region win of the year in a 9-2 victory over Riverside last Thursday.
Joseph Whitlock, who was suffering from a sickness, got the win on the mound. He pitched three innings, bagging five strikeouts and giving up one earned run. Whitlock gave up only one walk.
Kyle Duncan came in during the fourth to get the save. Duncan got seven strikeouts in his four innings on the mound.
The Leopards scored their first runs in the bottom of the opening inning.
Alex Cruce reached first on a pop fly that fell into left center. Tyson Baxter put runners on first and second with an infield grounder that took a bad hop. Both runners moved to second and third on a passed ball.
Two batters later, Chris Denton lined a shot to the left field fence to score the two baserunners.
Banks upped the score to 4-1 in the third inning. Denton doubled again to lead off the inning. Kris Drummond followed with a RBI double down the third base line.
Dereck McKinzie followed two batters later with a ground out in the infield that scored another run.
The Leopards’ defense picked up a double play in the top of the fourth. With runners on second and third, Duncan struck out a batter. Catcher Baxter took the ball and threw it to third, catching the baserunner off the bag. Denton tagged the runner for the third out of the inning.
Banks picked up three runs in the bottom of the fourth to put the score at 7-1.
Ross Oliver and Cruce both reached base and scored on a ground ball that got between the second baseman’s legs. Several batters later, Cory Morris knocked in a runner to set the score at 7-1.
The Leopards got their final two runs in the fifth. D.J. Ledford and Oliver had back-to-back singles. Cruce was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Baxter followed with a single to right field that scored two runs.
Denton led the team offensively, going three for four with two doubles and two RBIs.
Both Cruce and Baxter reached base each of their four times at bat. Baxter also had 2 RBIs. Drummond and Morris had one RBI each.

Diamond Tigers Searching For Wins
Commerce Looks To Snap Three-Game Skid This Thursday Against Wolverines
The young baseball season has been anything but light work for the diamond Tigers (1-3). And according to head coach David Cash, that should serve as good preparation for region play which looms next month.
“We’ve been seeing some quality teams and we’re in a quality region,” Cash said. “I’ve been telling the guys that it’s not going to get any easier.”
The team won’t get a break this week when they try to halt a three-game losing streak Thursday, taking on a Prince Avenue team which already downed the Tigers 9-0 this past week.
According to Cash, the Wolverines, which will join Region 8-A next season, are just another one of those quality teams on the Tigers’ 2001 slate.
“I was very impressed,” Cash said. “They’re a quality team. I’m looking forward to going down there and trying it again.”
Cash said he hopes further tinkering with the offensive lineup will produce better results than in their first matchup with Prince Avenue. Commerce was held to a single hit in last Thursday’s game and managed only six base runners.
“We’re going to shake up the batting order and try to put together some hits,” he said.
Cash said the team is still trying to settle on a defensive lineup as well, but added that the team has shown signs of improvement in the field after struggling last weekend against Banks County.
“We played pretty well in the field; we only committed two errors,” Cash said. “I was encouraged by that since we had seven against Banks County in the last game.”
Cash also said he would like to get several other pitchers get some innings of work this week, explaining that only Craig Henderson and Chad Jordan threw against Banks County. The coach said he’d like to use Josh Haynes this week while also bringing freshmen Hank Tiller and Kenny Westmoreland into the mix.
Overall, Cash said his team needs stability in the mound as well as in the field.
“Pitching and defense is what we’re relying on,” he said.
But Cash pointed out that it might take some time for things to come together this year.
“We’re not discouraged...we’ll be alright,” he said. “We’re playing a lot young guys so its going to take some time for them to get acclimated to high school baseball.”
After taking on Prince Avenue, the team will get a week break before hitting the field next Thursday against Athens Academy.
“We’re just going to try to sharpen our skills,” Cash said of the hiatus.
Prince Avenue’s pitching froze the Tigers’ bats Thursday, limiting Commerce (1-3) to a single hit, while the Wolverines got plenty of offensive firepower of their own in a 9-0 win.
“They shut us down,” Cash said.
Prince Avenue ran out to a quick 5-0 edge behind the strength of a two-run homer in the first inning and then a three-run blast in the second inning.
Wolverine hurler Josh Fields then protected the lead by holding Commerce hitless for five innings.
“He’s a quality pitcher,” Cash said. “...He’s a fine player who we’ll be seeing for sometime.”
The Tigers’ pitching settled down after the Prince Avenue’s initial offensive burst, retiring nine of 11 Wolverine hitters over the next three innings to hold the Prince Avenue lead at five.
However, the Wolverine bats got cranked up again in the sixth, scoring two more runs with an RBI single and a sacrifice fly.
Prince Avenue then tacked on two more in the seventh with a two-run shot over the left field fence to pad their lead at nine.
The Wolverines were one out away from a no-hit, shutout in the final inning when Commerce got a double from Scott White to break up the no-hit bid. However, the shut stayed in tact as the game ended with Kevin Wilson getting thrown out at home trying to score on Wilson’s hit.

Dragons look to rebound against Prince
After picking up their first two losses of the season, Jefferson’s Diamond Dragons were scheduled to meet a tough Prince Avenue team on the road Wednesday. Georgia Military College will host the Dragons Saturday at 2 p.m., and Prince Avenue visits Monday at 4 p.m.
Jefferson travels to Lakeview next Wednesday for their region opener at 4:30 p.m.
Head coach Chuck Cook was taken on a roller-coaster ride by his team last week, from a 12-3 blasting of Rabun County to a pair of disappointing losses Saturday.
Tyler Murphy kept the big bat going against Rabun County, driving in five runs on two hits. The biggest was a grand slam in the first inning that put the Dragons up 4-0. Brantley Gilbert, Josh Nabors and Kyle Potts set up the big blow with consecutive singles to lead off the game.
The top of the lineup was at it again in the second, with Gilbert and Nabors getting singles before Potts tripled. Murphy reached on a fielder’s choice, driving in his fifth run.
“We played good for about six innings,” Cook said. “We had one bad inning with three errors in the fifth, but we played error-free the rest of the game.” All of those errors came with two outs, and all three Wildcat runs were unearned.
Potts picked up the win, giving up just three hits and no walks while striking out six through six innings. Murphy came on in relief in the seventh, and struck out all three batters he faced.
“I was feeling pretty good, until we played Winder,” Cook recalled.
Cook’s alma mater rocked the Dragons twice Saturday, as the Jefferson gloves suddenly sprang leaks.
Winder took game one 9-4, thanks mostly to seven Dragon errors.
“Every time we turned around, something was happening,” Cook said. “It was just a frustrating day overall; we didn’t play anywhere close to our potential.” Seven of the Bulldoggs’ nine runs in game one were unearned.
Nabors was 2-for-4 in the game, and Ben Songer 2-for-3, but the big offensive blow was provided by Jeremy Smith, who drove in two with a home run.
Christopher Wheaton struck out seven in five innings, and left the game down only 4-2. Three of the four runs he allowed were unearned.
Winder picked up three more runs in the sixth inning, and two more in the seventh to close the scoring.
The Bulldoggs took a 4-0 early lead in game two off a three-run blast, but Ben Songer contributed a shot of his own to make it 4-1 in the fourth. Winder picked up a fifth run in the sixth inning before, as Cook said, “it all just fell apart.”
Winder scored six times in the seventh inning, off five hits and two errors, to close the win at 11-1.
“That was the only inning they really showed they were a better team,” Cook recalled. “We were as good or better; we just didn’t play like it. We’ve got to show up and play every pitch; we just can’t make the mistakes we made and expect to win. Hopefully we can learn from it.”
Outfielder Ryan Gurley returned to field action Saturday, and showed he’d not lost his drive despite missing time due to injury. With his team down 9-1 in game two, Gurley went for a diving catch that made Cook cringe.
“I was ready to kill him,” the coach said, probably only half-kidding. Gurley was to be checked out by a physician Monday and could return to the batting order as early as today.
“We’re real excited about getting him back,” Cook commented, “if nothing else for his pure abilities, but also for his leadership qualities. Even though I didn’t want him doing things like he did Saturday, that’s the kind of passion and desire I want all my players to have.”

Panthers begin region play Friday at Monroe
Late-inning rally not enough to win at Buford. It was less than a year ago that Van Samples and Rusty Hendricks sat in the same dugout for a baseball game. Come Friday afternoon, they’ll both watch the same game again - this time from opposing dugouts.
Samples will lead his Jackson County team to Monroe Area Friday for a 5:30 p.m. matchup against his former co-worker and the host Hurricanes.
“We parted on good terms,” Samples said of his work with Hendricks. “We’re good friends, and we’re both competitors, so we’ll both want to beat the other pretty bad. It should be a good, fun rivalry. Rusty’s got a young team. Hopefully it will be a good battle.”
“Coaching at Jackson County was a good experience for me,” Hendricks told The Walton Tribune’s Chris Bridges recently. “Everyone there always treated me well. I enjoyed coaching there.”
Beyond the reunion aspect, Friday’s game is significant for another reason - it’s the region opener for both teams.
“This region is going to come down to who’s got the best pitching,” Samples said. “Loganville has the Moss kid coming back, and Hart County’s got a good lefty. Franklin’s played well so far, and Stephens always looks pretty good. I don’t remember what Elbert had, but I’m sure they’ll be good again.”
Looking past Friday, Jackson County will host another region foe, Elbert County, Monday at 5:30 p.m., and travel to Loganville for their third region game next Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
The Panthers fell behind early in Tuesday’s game at Buford, and a seventh-inning rally fell just short as Jackson County returned home with a 4-3 loss. The game had originally been scheduled for last Wednesday, but was postponed due to weather.
Russ Johnston went the distance on the mound for the Panthers, striking out eight and walking three in six innings. Two of the Wolves’ runs were unearned.
Jackson County was held to just two hits through six innings and faced a 4-1 deficit in the seventh, but Preston Shiflet led off with a single that spurred a late rally.
Jason Powers reached on a fielder’s choice and took second on a wild pitch. Later, with two outs, Ben Minish pushed Powers across with a bloop single down the right field line. Leadoff hitter Cody Fortson hammered a liner in the right-center field gap for a double to drive in Minish, but was gunned down while trying to take third on the play.
Brad Pittman had Jackson County’s two other hits, a short infield hit in the first and a bloop single in the third. Pittman looked to have his third hit of the night when he lined hard over second base to lead off the sixth, but a highlight-reel defensive play robbed him.
Despite committing eight errors, the Panthers were able to record an 8-7 win Monday at White County.

Diamond Raiders ready for region play
A clean slate.
That’s what the diamond Raiders are hoping for this week as they enter region play after a 3-5 start in 2002.
“Hopefully, it’s a fresh start, everybody’s 0-0 and everybody’s equal,” Raider head baseball coach Charlie Griffeth said.
And according to the coach, the 18-game region slate can either bring out the best or worst in a squad.
“You say it every year, but if you’re pretty good, you’ll rise to the occasion and if you’re not, you won’t,” Griffeth explained.
Madison County, which finished 10-8 in region play in 2001, kicks off their 8-AAA schedule against a pair of squads which were in the cellar of the region standings a year ago. The Raiders visit Franklin County Friday, which finished last in 8-AAA in 2001 with a 2-16 mark, followed by a home matchup with Monroe Area, which finished a spot above the Lions.
Griffeth said his team needs is a few players to rise to the level of 8-AAA competition.
“You’ve got to have some guys step it up and play a notch above their level of play,” the coach said.
The coach pointed to two players that are playing solid offensively as the team enters into 8-AAA action.
Griffeth said Michael Young, is “probably hitting .350” and added that Dustin Dinsmore is hitting hear the .400 mark.
However, for the most part, Griffeth said the Raiders, which dropped three of four games this past week, have been plagued by some sloppy play through eight games. The coach pointed out that a lot of that goes back to a rule implemented by GHSA limiting teams to only three weeks of preseason practice.
“It’s hard to go out and get ready to play with only three weeks of play,” Griffeth said.
The team got into the win column this past week with a 5-2 win over North Forsyth in the second game of a double header, but suffered a 7-5 set back in the first game and then fell 10-0 to Brookwood Monday and 6-5 to North Forsyth Tuesday.
After splitting a double header with the North Forsyth Raiders Saturday, Madison County squandered a first inning, four-run lead in a 6-5 loss Tuesday night in Cumming.
Madison County nearly rallied their way out of a six-run hole late Saturday in the opening game of their double header against North Forsyth, but squandered a final-inning opportunity to complete comeback.
After trailing all day long, the Red Raiders looked in position to finally catch North Forsyth in the seventh, putting Jonathan Pou and Young on with no outs. However, a promising situation turned sour as Pou was forced out at third and North Forsyth turned a double play a batter later to seal the two-run win.
North Forsyth built a 7-1 lead in the game by getting two runs in the third inning and then cashed in on Madison County errors to get three more in the fourth before tacking on two in the fifth with a sacrifice fly and RBI single.
Madison County got their first run of the game in the third inning with an RBI single from Young.
The Red Raiders didn’t score again until they cut the lead to 7-4 in the bottom of the fifth with Cody Threkeld and Chris Burroughs both coming home on wild pitches and Adam Nash coming home on a sacrifice fly from Young.
Madison County then cut the deficit to two runs an inning later with an RBI from Nash.
Dustin Dinsmore hurled a gem for six innings and then held on in the final inning to give Madison County their third win of the season.
Armed with a 5-0 lead, the senior hurler baffled North Forsyth Raider hitters for most of the game, no-hitting the visiting Raiders for six and one-third innings, allowing only two base runners in that time.
However, the no-hit bid was broken up after one out in the seventh with a bunt single.
With the no-hitter out of the way, North Forsyth then added two runs before Dinsmore ended the Raider threat to give him the complete-game victory.
In the win, Dinsmore worked seven innings, surrendering only two hits and two walks while striking out eight batters.
Dinsmore helped out his own cause early on, slapping a two-run double in the bottom of the second inning to drive home Brent Burkhalter and Chris Burroughs.
Burkhalter then padded the lead at three runs the next inning with a bloop single to score Eric Power.
Burkhalter then came home on a wild pitch later in the inning to push the lead to four, followed by Nash who scored on a sacrifice fly from Burroughs.
Brookwood struck for four runs in the first inning and never looked back in a run-rule shortened 10-0 win over Madison County Monday.
According to Griffeth, there weren’t many mysteries to the double-digit loss to the Broncos.
“Brookwood just beat us,” Griffeth said.
The Broncos got on the board almost immediately in the opening inning, drilling a three-run homer and then added an RBI single.
Brookwood then struck for two more runs in the second with an two-run single and tacked on three more in the fourth with a homer to take a nine-run edge.
The Broncos added their final run in the fifth with an RBI single.


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