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MARCH 12, 2003

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Leopards looking for bats
It’s all slowly starting to fall into place for the Leopards.
They’ve got the uniforms of a professional team. The pitching is coming together. And the defense has rebounded from the Commerce debacle.
Now, all the Leopards (2-3) need is their offense.
“We’ve got to improve on our hitting tremendously,” coach Mike Williams said. “We’ve got the region coming up.”
Banks will see its final non-region competition this week with the tail end of the Flowery Branch Invitational Thursday and a double-header at White County on Saturday.
And after a week off from the play, the Leopards will fall hard into the region schedule, opening up against 8-AA newcomer Buford.
Over the past week, Banks went 1-2, taking an embarassing 13-6 loss to Commerce last Wednesday and falling 4-0 to Johnson on Saturday.
Banks also fell 3-2 to Flowery Branch Tuesday evening in the tournament.
In Saturday’s game, Chase Martin had the team’s only two hits in the shutout. However, of Johnson’s four runs, only one was earned, the other three gained on bunt-fielding problems.
“We’re working on that (bunt-fielding) in practice this week,” Williams said.
The Leopards couldn’t have executed a better half-inning of baseball last week, as they rode a three-run seventh inning to victory.
“Our guys responded real well,” Williams said of the comeback.
Banks fell 1-0 off an unearned run in the first inning and trailed West Hall the entire game. But the defense and pitching held on to keep the Spartans from increasing their lead.
“The guys did a good job holding it down and not letting it get away from us,” Williams.
Going into the top of the seventh Saturday, Banks faced a do or die situation.
Senior Kris Drummond stepped up big in the leadoff spot for the Leopards. He doubled to the left-centerfield fence.
Catcher Tyson Baxter came behind and laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt. But a bad throw to first allowed Baxter to get on base with runners at the corner.
Micheal Hayes followed with an RBI sacrifice bunt to move Baxter to third and allow Drummond to tie the game at 1-1.
Jacob Williams stepped up next and put down the team’s third straight bunt. Baxter moved in to score and give the Leopards a 2-1 lead. And since no one covered first on the play, Williams made it to first safely to give Banks another baserunner.
A passed ball put Williams on second. He then ran hard on a Caleb Herrin groundout to the infield to give the Leopards a 3-1 lead.
Pitcher Kyle Duncan held on in the bottom of the inning, forcing three straight groundouts for the victory.
“We still didn’t hit the ball real well,” Williams said. “But we had good defense and pitching to keep us in the game.”

JCCHS wrestling coach Thurmond resigns after 13 years at helm
Jackson County wrestling will not be the same following last Thursday’s resignation by head coach Phil Thurmond at the JCCHS winter sports banquet, however its clear that the Panther head man will leave the program in better shape than it was when he first arrived back in 1990.
During a remarkable 13-year tenure, Thurmond guided the program from an upstart two-year history into the proverbial promised land of state wrestling. He finished with a 73.3 percent winning percentage for his career and amassed an overall record of 171-61-1 during that time.
“I resigned three years ago and then I came back,” Thurmond, who cited family considerations for the decision, said.
“(Coaching) is hard to get out of your blood...but it’s hard to see your kids growing up and not getting to spend as much time with them as you would like.”
Thurmond has two boys, ages 15 and 13 and plans to spend more time with them in the future he said.
“I’ve been missing that and there’s just literally no time to do what I would like to do (with them while coaching). I want to be part of their activities.”
Recent glory for the Panthers under Thurmond included a third-place state trophy in Class AAA out of 52 teams in 2001, as well as a fourth-place showing in Class AAA out of 48 teams in 2002. Overall the program has blossomed into prominence despite a 7-12 dual meet season and a sub-par showing in tournaments during what was a rebuilding year this past season. The Panthers lost 13 seniors from the 2002 squad that was fourth-best in the state in Class AAA.
Included on his list of accolades for his teams are two area titles (II AA in 1994 and VIII AAA in 1999) as well as an average team point total of 159.3.
Individually, Thurmond has also made his mark as five of state champions have grappled under his wing. Earning the most golds was 2002-03 senior Jason Powers who claimed his third-straight state crown this past season.
When Thurmond began coaching the squad in his first season, the team and school were considerably smaller. As the years have passed by so has his influence to a number of wrestlers while making the progression from AA to AAA and then this season up to Class AAAA.
Thurmond noted the difference in those levels of competition and stated that he was glad to see the program’s progression over the years.
“I see a lot of highlights as far as winning area and placing top four in I look back over the years and literally having kids come back to me and say ‘Coach remember when...’
“I very much appreciated the numerous years of the support of the parents and having good groups of kids.”
JCCHS athletic director Brent Brock stated that the school is actively seeking a replacement for Thurmond and that the hiring would preferably be done “sooner rather than later” in order to accommodate returning wrestlers.

Blasting Banks
The hits fell this past Wednesday at Banks County and the Commerce baseball team hopes that will be the case this week as Region 8-A play starts.
The diamond Tigers, who pounded out 13 hits in a 13-6 rout of the Leopards, will face the 2002 Region 7-A champion Athens Academy Friday on the road after opening this past Tuesday afternoon at Towns County (results weren’t available as of press time). Commerce will face Tallulah Falls this coming Tuesday.
Head Tiger coach David Cash hopes that the past week’s success in Homer is an indicator of things to come.
“It always raises morale. Hopefully it will propel us into region play,” he said Tuesday afternoon before his team’s game with Towns County.
Commerce enjoyed an offensive explosion in the top of the second inning breaking a 1-1 tie with eight runs. The Tigers then tacked on two more runs in the third and two more in the sixth in the seven-run win.
The seven-run victory over the rival Leopards snapped a three-game losing streak to Banks County dating back to last year and also avenged a 4-2 March 3 defeat to the Leopards where they managed just three hits.
The team, however, is taking the victory in stride.
“It feels no more special than any other win,” Cash said. “It’s nice to beat someone that’s a rival. It’s nice to score that many runs.”
Chad Jordan had the standout day in Commerce’s productive showing, nailing a two-run homerun and a two-run double, collecting four RBIs on the day.
Also having multi-hit days were Jesse Smith, who collected three singles and stole a base; Sam Cutler, who had two hits and an RBI; and Brandon Smallwood who had two doubles and two RBIs.
Josh added a two-run double while Mitch Redmon had an RBI double.
Like the first meeting with Banks County, five pitchers got work from the mound.
Daniel Taylor started, working an inning, giving up a run on three hits and striking out one. Josh Haynes earned the victory, pitching two innings, surrending one run and two hits and getting strikeout. Casha Daniels worked two innings of relief, giving up two hits, two runs and striking out tow. Beauchamp relieved him, working an inning, surrendering a hit, a walk and an unearned run and recording a strikeout. Tiller then worked the final inning, giving up a run on two hits and a walk while striking out one.
Cash said he’s now confident with the team’s pitching staff saying that Chad Jordan, Daniels and Haynes will work primarily from the mound while Beauchamp, Taylor and Tiller will be used “as the need arises.”
The team also has its defensive lineup set just in time for the start of region play. Here’s how the team will set up:
Jesse Smith will play catcher, Chad Jordan will play first when he’s not pitching, Hank Tiller will play second, Mitch Redmon will be at third, Casha Daniels will play short stop and pitch as will Josh Haynes, Sam Cutler will man left and Adam Weddington and Justin Howell will fill in at center and left field.
With a lopsided win in hand, Commerce will now turn to a more daunting task with 2002 Region 7-A champion Athens Academy who’s led by catcher Adam Cronk who went 6-for-7 last week.
“They’re a very good team,” Cash said. “They’ll be fundamental.”
The team will then host Tallulah Falls, last year’s region doormat which didn’t win an 8-A game.

Daniel Taylor, 1 IP, 3 hits, 1 run, 1 K
Josh Haynes W, 2 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 1 BB, 1 K
Casha Daniels, 2 IP, 2 hits, 2 runs, 2 BB, 2 K
Justin Beauchamp, 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 unearned run, 1 BB, 1 K
Hank Tiller, 1 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 1 BB, 1 K
6 runs, 5 earned

Com 1 8 2 0 0 2 0 — 13
Banks 1 1 2 0 2 1 1 — 6

varsity team will not make up rainout with Apalachee. JV team will swap its home and away games with Athens Academy.

Diamond Dragons up and down in first week
The Jefferson baseball team has much to replace from last year’s final four squad, however according to coach Chuck Cook the talent on this year’s team has the potential to do so. The question, he says, is going to be can the team replace the leadership from a season ago.
With the loss of some seven seniors from the 25-10 squad of last season, development and maturity seem to be two words that come to mind when speaking about what the Dragons need to work on for success to come their way in 2003.
“As a coach I knew what team was going to show up each and every game and that’s losing a lot,” Cook said of last year’s group. “I just need someone to step up for us this year, no matter who it is. There is the talent for us to be successful this year, we have a lot of young guys with a lot of talent, but putting it together is going to be the key...the potential is there though.”
Through the first week of the season the Dragons (2-3) were up and down, dropping a pair of games Saturday at White County and splitting a home-and-home with Franklin County to open up the year.
“Right now we’re focusing on getting better and against White County we didn’t,” Cook explained. “We did score some runs though, so I can’t be upset with that, but we left a lot of people on base.”
With four seniors returning on this year’s team, all of which are hitting the ball well early, indications are that this squad will be led by the offense, at least early on this season. However, as the season progresses and the players work out the kinks, Cook said he expects the Dragon strong suit to be in the field. Although they have given up an unusually high amount of errors thus far this young season, they have the potential to be an excellent fielding team.
So far its been the bats, keeping the Dragons in ball games though, as Ben Songer, Jay Wood, Seth Potts and Michael Freeman have been swinging well early.
Songer posted the most impressive numbers in the opening week, with a .667 batting average, three home runs and six RBI’s through the first four games. Likewise, Wood has been solid, hitting .417 with two home runs and tying Songer for the team lead in RBI’s with six.
The early power has been somewhat of a surprise Cook said, with a lineup that he anticipates will develop into more of a singles and doubles type group as the season wears on, however coming off a 43 home run team output from a season ago, the Dragons have a precedent should they choose to win via the long ball.
On the mound, Cook expects three solid arms to be leading the way this season, with seniors Freeman and Songer leading the top right-handers on the pitching squad, while sophomore Mark Price will look to step into the role as the top left-hander in the rotation.
Dragons fall narrowly in season opener
Jefferson traveled to Franklin County on March 4 for their season opener against the Lions and came home with a 3-2 loss. Songer’s 2-for-3, 2 RBI performance led the offensive charge for the Dragons, however Franklin County scored three runs early and hung on late for the win. Freeman started the game and allowed all three runs in his three innings of work, while Songer pitched three solid innings in relief, allowing just two hits and no runs.
Jefferson wins home opener in rematch with Lions
Friday, the Dragons opened up their home season with a 14-4 win against Franklin Co. after pounding out 13 hits and using a six-run fourth inning to break open the game. Potts drove in three runs on the day and he and Songer belted back-to-back home runs during the offensive explosion. Freeman pitched four solid innings to earn the win.
Jefferson comes up short at White County
Saturday the Dragons made the trip to White County and came home with two defeats on the afternoon. A 9-8 game one loss was hampered by the fact that the Dragons left a slew of runners on base and committed far too many errors according to Cook. The team allowed 10 walks and hit two batters while also committing three errors, all of which needs improvement Cook said. Offensively the team was solid though, with Wood and Potts each recording 2-for-4 days at the plate and the Dragons out-hitting the Warriors 10-7 as a team.

Diamond Raiders searching for first win
At 0-3, Madison County is off to its slowest start in years.
And the problems aren’t that complex to diagnose according to the Raiders’ head coach.
“It’s really a simple game, but we’re not doing the simple things,” said Charlie Griffeth whose team has committed 11 errors in its three defeats.
Anyone who’s familiar with Raider baseball, Madison County is no stranger to slow starts and sudden turn-arounds over the past six seasons.
In fact, Madison County’s 1998 team started 4-8 and the last year’s Raiders started 7-9 and both teams rebounded and went to the state playoffs with the 1998 squad finishing second in the state.
But Griffeth said there’s no assurance that history will repeat itself.
“There’s no guarantee that you’re going to turn things around in the second half.”
This week, Madison County will rematch Oconee County Friday night at home which trounced the Raiders 11-0 this past Friday. The Raiders will then open region play Tuesday against a Habersham Central team that Griffeth said sports a wealth of young talent.
“There’s nothing like a win to turn thing around and that’s what we need right now,” Griffeth said.
Madison County’s first matchup with old Region 8-AAA foe Oconee County in three years wasn’t a pleasant reunion.
Sporting seven seniors and a major league pitching prospect in Trent Meehler, the Warriors, 8-AAAA champions last year, picked up five runs in the second inning en route to an 11-0 five-inning, run-rule shortened win Friday.
Madison County was limited to two hits in the loss.
While Griffeth called Oconee a solid team, the coach said that his team certainly didn’t play up to its potential.
“We made a lot of mistakes. I don’t think we competed well,” he said.
Madison County put two runners on with one out in the first inning but couldn’t capitalize on the scoring opportunity.
Oconee then answered with two scores in the bottom half of the inning and then scored three of its five runs in the second inning off Raider errors to take a 7-0 lead.
Oconee kept the scoring barrage going in the third with a two-run homer and in the bottom of the fourth with runs off a double steal and an RBI double.
In a wild affair, Madison County squandered an 11-9 lead, giving up four Elbert County runs in the top of the sixth Monday as the Raiders fell for the third time this year and the second time against the Blue Devils.
Griffeth pointed out that little mistakes unravel his team, issuing seven walks, hitting four batsmen, committing four errors and making four more “mental” errors.
“It was like we find a way to lose more than we do a way to win,” he said.
Madison County held leads of 6-3 after two innings and 8-4 after four before the Blue Devils rallied for five runs in the fifth and surged ahead for good in the sixth.
After combining for just one run and seven hits in the first two games, Madison County’s offense did awake in the loss, pounding out 10 hits and scoring 11 runs.
Highlighting the Raiders from the plate were Michael Young who had a double; Tony Tittle who had two RBIs; Micah Sales, who had a two-run pinch hit; and Conrad Carey, who had two hits.
“It was a plus mentally,” Griffeth said of the Raider bats. “But it wasn’t against the same type of pitching you’d see against top-notch region teams.”
With the aid of three Raider errors and a wild pitch, Elbert County scored four runs in the fifth inning last Tuesday to break a 1-1 tie and surge ahead of Madison County in a 5-1 win.
Madison County led 1-0 early after Carey brought in Brent Burkhalter on a sacrifice fly.
However, Elbert County tied the game up 1-1 with a score in the fourth.

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