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AUGUST 21, 2002


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Lady Leopards open with tough softball losses
With one area opponent behind them and another coming up, the Lady Leopards (0-3, 0-1) are working hard to improve their game.
“All three teams we play this week are all experienced fast-pitch programs,” head coach Kevin Gaines said. “If we can work on the little things, then the bigger things will follow.”
Banks’ major problems last week came on the mound. The Lady Leopards pitchers are still young in the fast-pitch program, having spent most of their lives in slow pitch.
“I think we’ll come around,” Gaines said. “We basically lack experience.”
The Lady Leopards opened up with two games on consecutive days last week. They had two days of practice before opening up against area opponent GAC Tuesday.
“We had a real good varsity practice on Friday,” Gaines said. “It was good to get in a couple of days of practice to work on some of the things that needed to be worked on. Once the season starts, it is difficult to find time to practice when you are playing two or three times a week.”
Banks’ next game will be against area foe Lumpkin County Thursday in the teams’ first contest on the road. The varsity will play at 5 p.m.
The Lady Leopards were slated to host Franklin Wednesday afternoon. Results were not available at presstime.
GAC 7, BANKS 1
In what Gaines is calling the best effort of the year, the Lady Leopards were edged 7-1 by Greater Atlanta Christian, a team that made an elite-eight berth last year.
“We definitely played the best game thus far,” Gaines said. “We hung in there and showed a lot of guts in the field. This is a game I told the team that we should take something positive from and build on it the rest of the season.”
The Lady Leopards were up against one of the best fast-pitch hurlers in the state, a girl who has compiled a 26-8 record in two seasons with 216 strikeouts and a 0.93 ERA.
GAC got on the board first, nabbing two runs in the opening inning. A single scored a walked batter and a later hit sent another run home for the Lady Spartans.
GAC would threaten again in the second inning, but Banks’ defense was able to hold the team at bay.
In the bottom of the fourth, Ashley Gowder reached first after being hit by a pitch and then took second on a passed ball.
Ashley Freeman then delivered a clutch hit to score Gowder and cut the score to 2-1.
In the sixth and seventh, GAC added five more runs to their total to take the win.
“Keeping them 2-1 at the end of the fifth was something I was proud of,” Gaines said. “We got a little tired toward the end of the game and let them get some runs, but overall I was proud of the way we played.”
TOWNS 19, BANKS 4
The Lady Leopards were defeated 19-4 by Towns County in four innings last Thursday.
The Lady Indians scored in all four innings. Banks’ only runs came in the first, third and fourth innings.
In the bottom of the first, Crystal Montgomery reached on a fielder’s choice. A. Freeman followed with a single that moved Montgomery to third.
She came in to score on a passed ball that put the score at 4-1.
Banks would add two more in the bottom of the third.
Nicole Powell got a one out single to center field to reach base. Gowder then powered a triple into the right-center field gap for an RBI.
Montgomery lined out to center field on a ball that was far enough out to allow Gowder to tag up and score.
The Lady Leopards tried to stay in the game in the fourth. Banks went into the bottom half of the inning behind 19-3.
Jessica Rogers led off with a walk. Freshman Rachel Walker followed with a solid single.
Ashley Dumas then drew a walk to load the bases with no outs. Brooke Whitmire had a sac-fly that allowed Rogers to come home. The Lady Leopards weren’t able to capitalize on the remaining two base runners, ending the game.
HABERSHAM CENTRAL 13, BANKS 1
Banks County took a tough 13-1 in its season-opening bout with 8-AAAA Habersham Central.
“You can tell a difference in a team like Habersham Central, which has done fast-pitch for quite some time, and a first-year team like ourselves,” Gaines said.
The Lady Raiders jumped ahead 13-0 in five innings before Banks was able to muster enough offense to score.
In the bottom of the fifth, Jessica Freeman walked. Brandi Stapp stepped in to run for J. Freeman and stole second.
Powell followed with an RBI single to give Banks their first run of the year.


Tigers To Tangle With Rabun In Second Preseason Scrimmage
The Commerce Tiger football team will have their second and final preseason test-run when they meet 8-AA Rabun County Thursday.
The scrimmage is set for 6 p.m at Rabun County High School.
Savage said the format would be similar to that of last Thursday’s Athens Academy scrimmage where each team held the ball for 10 offensive plays and alternated. The workout will last 36 “game minutes.”
This is the second year straight that the Tigers have met Rabun County on the practice field. The Sonny Smart-coached Wildcats finished 2-8 in 2001.
The Tigers’ objectives Thursday will be the same as last week’s scrimmage with the Spartans according to Savage—playing a lot of different players and looking at a variety of things.
The quarterback is among the main positions the team is eying.
Savage said he was pleased with the play of his signal callers in the scrimmage against Athens Academy with Dennis Wilder and Caleb Jordan getting the bulk of those snaps. The Tigers will take a more focused look at Josh Haynes this week. All three are competing for the starting job this fall.
Overall, Savage said this past Thursday’s workout with Athens Academy opened their eyes to where they have room to improve.
“It gives us an idea of where were not at,” Savage explained. “I thought we could have played a little harder and not busted so many assignments, but I was pretty pleased with how it went. I thought it was good for us.
Commerce has been holding preseason workouts for nearly five weeks now. The team still, however, has over two more weeks of practice left before they kickoff the season Sept. 6 against Franklin County. Many of the state’s high school teams will kickoff the season Aug. 30, but Commerce has an open date that evening.


Lady Panthers set their sights on new region
Entering last year’s fast-pitch softball season, not many knew what to expect from a Jackson County squad that was heading into uncharted waters in their inaugural campaign.
After reaching the state tournament and finishing in the top eight in Class AAA though, the expectations for the 2002 season will most certainly be higher than last, especially considering the Lady Panthers return eight starters.
As coach Mark Mahoney’s squad jumps up a classification into Region 8-AAAA, he sees his team hopefully returning to Columbus to play in the state tournament, but only if they can leave last season’s success behind them and focus on the future.
“This year these girls have to realize that we’re in a new region, it’s a new team and a new year. We can’t just show up out there in our uniforms and expect to win,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to compete at a higher level and put teams away when we’re ahead.”
According to Mahoney, the biggest test for the Lady Panthers in 2002 may very well be “themselves.”
Unlike last year, the Lady Panthers not only have a year of experience under their belts, but they also have expectations, especially following such a successful inaugural first year.
“Our major goal to start the season is to win our north region... and to go back to sectionals and go back to (play in the state tournament in) Columbus,” Mahoney said.
If the Lady Panthers are going to meet those goals, they will rely heavily on their two most involved players during the course of a game, their pitcher and catcher.
Brandi Townsend, the team’s hard-throwing right-hander, and catcher Krista Bess will be expected to lead the team both on the field and in the dugout in the coming year.
Townsend, as a sophomore led the Lady Panthers with 175 strikeouts while throwing to the always reliable Bess. Both players earned third team all-state honors.
“Their the core of our team,” said Mahoney. “Where they go, we go.”
That said if the team hopes to have another successful season, they may also have to have some new players step up and help carry the load, especially considering the Lady Panthers are entering Class AAAA.
“Our defense is going to be our backbone, like it was last year,” Mahoney said. “Offensively we’ve just got to be able to get the big hit...be able to bunt and girls have to be able to move runners around.
‘I think more girls are going to have to step up and not just rely on our two or three big guns,” he said.
One of the players expected to make an impact is not a new face to those who follow Lady Panther softball. Lauren Mize, a freshman on the JCCHS slow-pitch team last season has moved over to try her hand at the fast-pitch game in 2002, something her coach is excited about.
“She’s going into a key role for us,” Mahoney said. “We’re looking for big things from her.”
That said, with eight returning starters, the majority of which are juniors, the Lady Panthers will rely on a those from last season’s team to lead the way in their new classification. But, Mahoney feels confident that many of the team’s early season challenges will be similar to last season, only this year they’ll know what to expect.
“I think it’s going to be the same type of region,” he said “(But) I think when we go on to sectionals and state it’s going to be much tougher. When we’re going to a bigger tournament, it’s going to be much tougher.”
The Lady Panthers host Elbert County today at 5 p.m. in their home opener.


Lady Dragons host Jones in opener
After finishing as the second-best team in the state last year, the Jefferson softball team will look to make it back to the state finals again this season, only this time they hope to come out on the winning side of things.
Their first step towards repeating last season’s success begins Thrusday as the Lady Dragons host a strong Jones County squad at 6:15 p.m.
Coach DeMaris Gurley’s team should be right back in the thick of things in Class A, providing their returning starters can perform much like they did last season.
Leading the way for the Lady Dragons will be a solid core of seniors including first baseman Annie Goza and outfielders Sunny Bush, Michelle Boring, Kenyotta Beasley and Molly Cleveland.
Goza will look to once again be a threat at the plate as she is coming off a strong year in which she led the Lady Dragons in several offensive categories. Her twelve home runs and sixty-five RBI’s were both team highs, while she also recorded the third most hits on the squad with 49.
In order for Goza to produce similar numbers again this season, her teammates will have to make up for the loss of several players lost to graduation last year and get on the base paths for her to drive them in.
Staci Caudell and Lee DeBose led the team last season with a combined 114 hits, getting on base often as Goza and the rest of the squad drove them in.
Although replacing them will likely be a tall order, sophomore Brittany Caudell appears ready to step in and perform. As only a freshman she led the team in batting with a .519 average while also stroking 40 hits and 30 RBI’s.
Other key returning players from last season include Kenyotta Beasley (25 RBI’s) and Michell Boring (33 RBI’s).
As for their schedule, Gurley indicated that although none of their games will be easy, she has two dates in particular which the Lady Dragons will be looking towards as key tests.
Oct. 8 the Lady Dragons travel to Commerce to take on the rival Tigers in a heated affair while the following week on Oct. 15 Temple comes calling for a match up of two of the top programs in the state.


Raider football team looking to improve in second scrimmage
According Madison County head football coach Tom Hybl, the Raiders’ first preseason scrimmage this past Friday night showed that there’s a lot still left on the drawing board.
But the Raiders will get another chance to iron the kinks out this Friday as they take on 7-AA Morgan County in a 7 p.m. road scrimmage in Madison.
Madison County will workout against a quality squad in the Bulldogs as Kenny Moore’s team boasted a 7-5 mark and reached the second round of the playoffs in 2001.
Though nothing has been finalized, Hybl said the format Friday would be very similar to that used in the Johnson scrimmage in which included 12 minutes of limited field play and 24 minutes of full-field game-type scenario scrimmage.
The Raiders spent this past Friday night popping pads with the 7-AAA Knights from Gainesville in 36-”game minute” scrimmage.
Madison County found the endzone three times and held Johnson scoreless, but Hybl found several areas of concern in the scrimmage, starting with conditioning.
“We showed that we weren’t ready to play a football game conditioning-wise, so that’s something we’ll be working on,” the coach said.
The scrimmage also reiterated the need for several improvements in technique, especially on the defensive side according to Hybl.
But the primary concern is the offense front.
“We’ve got forever to go on the offensive line, so that’s the main thing we’ll be working on,” he said.
However, considering that the team was up against an unfamiliar squad, Hybl said his team had a decent showing.
“We were playing against some people who we’d never seen before. So overall it wasn’t bad,” he said.
Simply staying healthy will be among the main items on the agenda for this Friday night’s scrimmage, something the team was able to do this past week.
“To go full speed like that and not get anyone hurt, that was a plus,” Hybl said.


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