Area Sports...

JULY 17, 2002


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A new man for a new program
Gaines comes in to lead new fast-pitch varsity program. Banks County seems like a good fit for Kevin Gaines.
He will come into a school to implement a new varsity fast-pitch softball program. He inherits a good nucleus of players who saw experience on last year’s junior varsity team. And he gets to move a little closer to Hart County where he grew up.
“I’m real excited to come in here,” Gaines said.
Gaines comes from an 8-8 team at class A Metter High school. Last season, Gaines’ first, he led the team to more wins that it had seen in its previous three seasons combined. The Banks County position will be his second head coaching job.
He comes into the county with the opportunity to jump start Banks’ new varsity fast-pitch team, a team that plays its first season this year.
Gaines said that developing a new program had some advantages over inheriting an existing program.
“If you take over for a coach who’s established a program, it’s harder to make changes,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to transition and make changes when you start a program.”
Gaines will inherit some players who have fast-pitch experience, having played on last year’s junior varsity team or on the recreation department’s fast-pitch team. He will also get players from last year’s slow-pitch team.
Thus far, Gaines said students had indicated a high level of interest. Nearly 60 kids showed up for an interest meeting during the end of the school year.
He anticipates fielding both a varsity and junior varsity fast-pitch team this year. Gaines will also have to cut some from the roster he said.
“We’ll be getting good girls with fast-pitch experience bleeding into our varsity program,” Gaines said.
Gaines said he hopes to establish a solid fast-pitch program with good community support.
“It can make or break you,” he said of community support. “It’s important to play in front of a good crowd.”
In August, the team will hold an inter-squad scrimmage to build support and show off the team’s new varsity uniforms. He said he hopes the event will draw in potential fans.
In the long-term, Gaines said he looks to make the Lady Leopards competitive in the area—a tough area.
“Hopefully, we can do that short-term as well,” Gaines said.
So far, Gaines said he was excited about working in Banks County and had gotten a good reception from parents.
He invited fans out to watch the team this year. The season tentatively begins August 15. Practice will start July 29.
“Fast-pitch is an exciting game with more of a baseball aspect,” Gaines said. “I wonder why they call it softball. With the ball going 60 miles per hour, it’s not very soft if it hits you. There may be people who haven’t watched a fast-pitch game. I encourage them to come out and watch.”


Commerce boys’ all-star team gunning for state title
After obliterating their district by a combined score of 42-8, the Commerce 11-and-12-year-old boys’ all-stars will now put their postseason firepower to the test against the state’s best.
Commerce tore through tournament play in Dahlonega last week unscathed to take the District 7 title, winning four times to earn a pass to the state tournament in Claxton.
The team will play the District 5 representative at 9 p.m. Wednesday night. However, Commerce coaches, as of Monday, didn’t know who their first-round foe would be.
The team wrapped up the district championship in a 14-3 win over Lumpkin County—a win that was fueled by a sixth-inning, 11-run outburst.
Head coach Mark Gary said that his team simply combined all the right elements in the title run—solid hitting, sound defense and timely pitching.
“We’ve been playing really well,” Mark Gary said. “We’ve been hitting the ball well and our pitching has been solid. We’re not giving up many runs.”
Gary said maintaining that level of play will be the key at state.
“We feel pretty confident,” he said. “We’ve just got to hit the ball and make the plays.”
Baxter Barnes and Dusty Black have been the main play-makers so far, leading the team from both the plate and the mound according to Gary. In fact, Barnes and Black were the only two pitchers used during the tournament. However, the coach was quick to point out that everyone on the team has been contributing.
“We’ve had a good team effort,” Gary said.
Commerce postseason road started last Friday with a 10-0 blanking of Rabun County. They followed that win with a 6-3 win over Lumpkin and a 12-2 drumming of Towns County to lift them to the championship round against Lumpkin County last Tuesday.
Here’s a run down of district tournament action:
COMMERCE 14,
LUMPKIN COUNTY 3
With the contest knotted at three in the sixth last Tuesday night, Commerce turned a tight title contest into a breather.
The all-star squad secured their pass to state in a loud way, ripping Lumpkin County for 11 runs in the final inning, highlighted by a two-run single by Colton Brown, a Reuben Haynes RBI single, a two-run homer by Jarred Howell and an RBI single by Cohen Cooke.
While the game ended with some fireworks, it also started that way as well with Haynes ripping the second pitch of the contest out of the ball park for a leadoff solo homer.
COMMERCE 12, TOWNS COUNTY 2
Commerce breezed through their third-round matchup, blasting Towns County for four runs in the second inning, two in the third, one in the fourth and five in the fifth, capped off by Matt Worley’s RBI double which gave Commerce a 10-run lead, ending the game.
Dusty Black went three-for-four in the win as did Barnes who also drilled a two-run HR. Haynes also had a solid night at the plate, going two-for-four as did
COMMERCE 6, LUMPKIN COUNTY 3
In a balanced offensive effort, Taylor Gary and T. Green both collected two hits while everyone else in the lineup added a single in the three-run win.
Commerce built a 2-1 lead after two innings and added two scores in the second and another in the third to take a four-run edge.
Lumpkin cut the gap to 5-3 with two runs in the bottom half of the third before Commerce added an insurance run in the fifth and held on the rest of the way for the win.
COMMERCE 10, RABUN 0
Commerce jumped all over Rabun County last Friday night, coasting to an easy 10-0 win in the opening round of tournament action.
The team struck for three in the third, five in fourth and two in fifth before the game was called.
Offensively, Howell went two-for-four and Barnes went three-for-three while Brown, Jackson Fisher and Cohen Cooke all added one hit.


All-star state tournament play begins
Former Lady Panther April Cantrell was a two-sport standout in high school.
Now she’ll try to do the same in college.
Already a member of the Lady Lions’ basketball squad, Cantrell will look to lace-up her spikes this season on the softball diamond for Emmanuel College.
Cantrell’s mother, Rita Baird, said signs are positive that her daughter will make the team as a walk-on.
“I don’t see why she won’t,” she said.
Baird explained that Cantrell, who played slow-pitch softball at Jackson County Comprehensive High School, has already been working out with the Emmanuel squad in order to adjust to the fast-pitch game.
If Cantrell can duplicate the success of her slow-pitch prep career, she could prove to be a valuable bat for the Lady Lions.
Cantrell, a 2001 JCCHS graduate, ranks in the top 10 in seven different career categories—second in hits with 196, seventh in batting average at .446, fifth in doubles with 11, third in triples with 12, fourth in homeruns with 13, second in RBIs with 127 and third in walks with 21.
In 2001, she was named to the north squad for the Georgia Athletic Coaches North-South all-star slow-pitch series.
On the basketball court, the rising sophomore’s collegiate career started off on a solid note this past winter as Cantrell appeared in 31 games, averaging 14.4 minutes, 2.5 points and 1.5 rebounds. She also started both conference tournament games for Emmanuel.
Baird added that Cantrell will most likey start for Arlon Beadles’ Lady Lions squad in the upcoming season.


Junior All-Stars claim District 7 title
The Madison County Junior League National All-Stars are the 2002 District 7 champions.
The squad claimed the championship last Tuesday, downing Habersham 13-3. Madison County won four of five games in the tournament, including three straight shutout victories. The team downed Hart County 7-0 on July 2, whipped Toccoa 10-0 on July 3, blanked Franklin County 7-0 on July 6, before losing to Habersham 9-7 July 8. Madison County bounced back from that loss with the 13-3 championship victory.
STATE TOURNEY
With the district title, the All-Stars advanced to the state tournament in Monroe, where they downed Martinez-Evans 10-3 on July 13. Madison County lost to Warner Robins 10-0 Sunday and whipped Smyrna 21-1 Monday.
The team is scheduled to face the loser of the Tuesday Athens/Cartersville game today (Wednesday) at 7:30 p.m. The winner of that game will play at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and the winner of that matchup will play at 6 p.m. Friday. The championship game is set for Saturday at 10 a.m.
Against Martinez-Evans, Chaz Perry pitched all seven innings, striking out seven, walking five and allowing just two hits.
Perry smashed a fifth inning homer and scored three runs in the game. Brad Osborne, Anthony Moody and Kirk Pattterson scored two runs each. Adam Crowe scored one run. Josh Strickland went 1-for-2 with two walks and Caleb Williams went 1-for-1. Drew McCurly picked up a walk. Other players helping on defense were Jamey Rice, Kyle Cooper, Andrew Brannon and Jason Wynn.
“It was a total team effort,” said team manager Frank Strickland.
Madison County put one run on the board in the third inning, four in the fifth and five in the sixth. They did not bat in the seventh since they were the home team.
Against Smyrna, Madison County led 3-0 after two innings, before rallying for 10 runs in the third and eight in the fourth in the 21-1, five-inning trouncing.
Strickland picked up the win, going four innings, giving up one run, walking two and striking out three. He faced 17 batters and threw 59 pitches. Perry pitched one inning, facing threw batters and throwing just eight pitches.
Rice, who scored three runs, homered for Madison County in the third. Osborne and Perry both went 4-for-4 with four runs. Crowe was 2-for-5 with two runs. Patterson was 2-for-4 with two runs. Moody finished 3-for-4 with two runs. Strickland, Cooper, Wynn, McCurley and Brannon scored one run each.
Madison County surrendered just two hits in the contest.


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