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April 3, 2002

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Leopards fishing for region wins
Banks hoping to better 4-4 region record
If post season play is on the Leopards’ minds, then they’re going to have to bag a few crucial region wins.
Banks (7-6) has only two region foes yet to face for the first time, and the Leopards now sit at an even 4-4 in the region. But with 12 games to go, all of them against region opponents, the Leopards have a chance to improve their record in the second half of the season.
Banks is using spring break this week to get time off from the diamond. Head baseball coach Mike Williams said the team will get back into practice this weekend.
Monday, Banks will travel to Rabun County to face a young Wildcat squad.
“They have not won many games in the region,” Williams said. “I feel like we should come out pretty good against them. But you never know what’s going to happen up there.”
The first pitch against Rabun is set for 5 p.m. in Tiger.
On Wednesday, the Leopards will travel to Dahlonega to face Lumpkin County at 5 p.m.
Banks County took a tough 11-1 loss to East Hall on the road Monday.
The Leopards had a bad game defensively, allowing five errors to up the Vikings score.
“We hurt ourselves,” Williams said.
Banks’ only run came in the top of the second inning. Tyson Baxter was hit by a pitch to reach first. He moved to second on a wild pitch. D.J. Ledford followed with a single. Baxter went in to score on Corey Sims’ double up the left field line.
The Leopards know all too well that the old saying “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over” is all too true. Banks dropped a four-run lead Friday to fall 8-6 to Union County at home.
Banks County held a 6-2 lead going into the top of the seventh inning.
Kyle Duncan, who started the game, bagged six strikeouts and gave up only two earned runs on a homerun in the first six innings. He lead off the seventh inning with a strikeout before giving up a single and another two-run homer to put the score at 6-4.
Sims came in on relief and got one out before giving up another single and a two-run homer to tie the game.
With runners in scoring position in the bottom of the inning, Banks was unable to get anyone across the plate, sending the game into extra innings.
Union County got another two-run shot in the eighth inning to go ahead 8-6 and win the game.
“We played good the whole game and to have it taken away at the end hurt,” Williams said. “That one hurt bad. We needed to beat those guys.”
Banks County got all of its runs off of deep balls. The Leopards’ first score came in the third.
Ross Oliver and Alex Cruce both reached base to set up a three-run homer for senior Joseph Whitlock. The left field shot gave Banks a 3-2 lead.
In the fifth, Whitlock stepped back up to the plate with Oliver on base again. He battled back from an 0-2 count to nail a two-run shot to centerfield on a 3-2 pitch. The homer gave the Leopards a 5-2 lead.
Ledford followed in the sixth with a solo homer to left field to put Banks ahead 6-2.
Whitlock’s two homers were his third and fourth of the season. He leads the team with a .467 batting average and 15 RBIs.
Earlier last week, the Leopards downed White County 9-4.

Commerce Rematches With Athens Academy Today (Wed.) In Final Non-Region Contest
The pre-region high school baseball schedule could easily be called the “spring training” portion of the season.
Teams attempt to rid themselves of the early-season jitters just in time to gear-up for an impending and sometimes imposing region slate.
If that’s true, then the diamond Tigers will get one more non-region test run today (Wednesday) before the “real season” begins Friday with the start of Region 8-A play.
Commerce rematches Region 7-A Athens Academy at 4:30 p.m. on the road this afternoon and will then face Jefferson two days later in the opening contest of a 12-game region slate.
The team will then meet region foe Providence Christian Academy on the road Tuesday.
In starting their season with rival-Jefferson, the diamond Tigers (6-8 in region play last year) face perhaps the best outfit in Region 8-A.
Last season, the Dragons, 12-2 in region play last year, finished second in the region and then caught fire during the postseason, advancing to the final four of the state tournament before bowing out against Bowdon.
This year, Jefferson looks to be a force to be reckoned with, returning much of the same cast that nearly brought home state gold a year ago along with currently boasting a number three ranking in the state.
The Dragons have also jumped out to a quick lead in the region race with a 22-4 drumming Wednesday of a Lakeview squad that had already beaten defending state runner-up Bowdon earlier this year.
After the road contest with Jefferson, Commerce will face off with another upper-tier region squad when they travel to Lilburn to matchup with Providence Christian Academy which finished 11-3 in region play in 2001.
Commerce heads into action this week nursing a four-game losing streak, dropping their latest contest 14-6 to Athens Academy this past Thursday.
The diamond Tigers lone win this year came in their opener March 5 with a 12-3 shellacking of Athens Christian. Since then Commerce has dropped a double header to Banks County, followed by losses to Prince Avenue and then the Spartans.
Commerce stormed back from an early deficit Thursday, but quickly fell back in a hole they couldn’t dig their way out of in a 14-6 loss at home to Athens Academy.
The setback dropped Commerce to 1-4 on the season.
The Spartans came out attacking the ball during the first two innings of the contest with Athens Academy jumping out to a quick 5-0 lead off a two-out home run in the first inning and an RBI single and three-run shot in the second inning.
But the Tigers showed resilience in the bottom of the second, erasing Athens Academy’s five-run cushion by striking for five runs of their own with a bases loaded walk, a run off an error and then a three-run double by Kevin Wilson to tie the contest.
But the momentum was short-lived.
Athens Academy went right back to work the next inning with three more scores thanks to a double off the left field wall to pull ahead 8-5.
The Spartans then padded the edge in the fourth with an RBI single followed by another score to push the lead to 10-5 before adding another RBI single to increase the edge to six runs.
Commerce attempted another rally, loading the bases in the bottom half of the inning with only one out. However, their comeback effort this time wouldn’t be as successful as their second-inning surge.
The Tigers managed only one run off a groundout by Josh Haynes, making the score 11-6, and then grounded out to end the inning.
Athens Academy then tacked three more runs on the scoreboard in the top of the sixth inning with a one-out RBI single followed by a two-run triple to right field to push the lead to eight runs.

Panther tracksters back in action Saturday at Winder
Long break crops already-short season. As they close a break that head coach Steve Collins surely thinks has been way too long, Jackson County track and field teams will be back in action Saturday in the Winder Invitational at Winder-Barrow High School.
Looking beyond Saturday, the Panthers will join Commerce in traveling to Franklin County Tuesday for a 4 p.m. meet, and will host West Hall and Stephens County next Thursday, also at 4 p.m.
When they stroll off the bus Saturday morning at Winder, Panther athletes will have gone two weeks since their previous competition. A home meet with North Hall and Apalachee that had also been previously slated for last Thursday had to be cancelled, due to a scheduling conflict.
Collins had planned on trying to get his teams added to a meet at Clarke Central last week to avoid having such a long break, but the event was postponed.
The extended break makes what is already a short track and field season even shorter, particularly for the Panther girls. The girls’ all-classification state meet in Albany is set for May 2-4, and the Georgia Olympics boys’ meet at Jefferson will be held the following week.

Dragons smash Lakeview in region opener
To host region rival Commerce Friday
After handing the Lions of Lakeview a thrashing they won’t soon forget last week, Jefferson’s Diamond Dragons will host rival Commerce Friday at 5 p.m. for just their second region game of the season. Friday’s contest will be the region opener for the Tigers.
Jefferson will travel to Tallulah Falls Monday for a 4:30 p.m. game, and host Landmark next Thursday at 5 p.m. before taking more than a week off.
Lakeview came in to last week’s contest seemingly holding all the cards. On top of having home-field advantage, the Lions had already recorded a region win over Providence, and were fresh off a 4-3 upset of the state’s second-ranked team, Bowdon. But the Dragon bats smashed any hope Lakeview may have had for a win.
Down 3-1 after one inning, Jefferson put six runs on the board in the second and put the game out of reach with an 11-run fourth inning.
In just his second game since returning to the batting order, Ryan Gurley started the eruption when he reached on an error and advanced to second on another. Three singles, a double, a walk and a hit batsman later, the Dragons had plated five runs to take a 12-3 lead.
But the damage was just beginning.
Josh Nabors came to the plate with the bases full of Dragons, and belted a grand slam to make it 16-3. Kyle Potts followed, missing a homer by inches as he bounced the ball off the left-field fence for a double. Tyler Murphy made it 18-3 with a two-run shot.
Jefferson added four more in the fifth, the big blow a three-run shot by Potts, who helped himself with another strong outing on the mound. Ben Songer also homered in the game, and the final score was 22-4.

Lady Raiders needing region wins down the stretch
After suffering from a rash of injuries the last time they stepped on the soccer field, the Lady Raiders have been recuperating this past week with a 10-day hiatus from action.
Head coach Andy Felt said the rest is just what his 7-5 squad needed.
“It was good that we had time off after the Winder game to recover and refocus,” he said.
The team will return to the field this coming Tuesday in a key region matchup with Loganville.
Madison County, which had three players sent to the hospital and several others who had to come out of the game in a 2-0 region loss to Winder-Barrow, needs as many region wins as possible now if they hope to lock up one of the four seeds in the region tournament at the end of the month.
The top two teams from that tournament move on to state.
With losses to Stephens County and now Winder-Barrow, Madison County has already fallen to two of those top four teams in 8-AAA, making the remaining region contests crucial if they’re to meet their preseason goals.
“It was a disappointing loss; it was a big region game,” Felt said of the contest with the Lady Bulldoggs. “It makes it harder.”
Felt explained that the team will have to hit a hot streak down the final stretch.
“The bottom line is that if we win the rest of our region games, we should be seeded third,” he explained. “If we win all but one, we should be seeded fourth.”
Felt said that all the remaining region games were huge, but pointed to three in particular that the Lady Raiders need to win—Loganville, Eastside, who they take on April 12 and Monroe Area, who they play April 19.
“The goals we had at the beginning of the season are still attainable,” Felt said. “But we’re not in the position right now that we had hoped for.”
An off night by the Lady Raiders paired with a mass exodus of players due to injuries made for a nightmarish evening Thursday night in a 2-0 loss to Winder-Barrow.
“We didn’t play as well as we could have...we couldn’t tell by the second half because there were so many injuries,” Felt said. “Every time I threw together a lineup, a key player would go down.”
Madison County surrendered a goal in the first half and another in the second half.

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