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MARCH 26, 2003


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Diamond Leopards start region play this week
After a week of non-competitive action, the Diamond Leopards are about to get into the thick of the region schedule.
“It’s important that we get some region wins early,” coach Mike Williams said.
The Leopards start off the region schedule with three straight home games—Union on Wednesday, Apalachee Friday and Buford on Monday.
Banks has played only one game at home so far this season, a loss to Commerce early this month.
Williams said he expects both Union and Apalachee to be tough opponents, though Union doesn’t appear to be the team it has been in the past.
“They’ve got some decent hitters,” he said. “I fully expect for them to come down here and for us to get a ‘W.’”
Friday, the Leopards take on Apalachee, a team with a new coach.
“They’ve got some good hitters but they are kind of weak pitching,” Williams said. “You can’t ever tell with them. We’re going to have two real tough games this week.”
The Leopards will probably get their toughest test of the early region schedule in a contest with Buford on Monday.
Banks comes off a week off from competitive. The Leopards’ last game came in a doubleheader against White County on March 15, 10 days ago. The team practiced all but Monday and Tuesday of last week, moving into the gym on days when the weather wouldn’t allow outdoor sessions.
“We got some good days in,” Williams said.
Banks has managed to stay relatively healthy throughout the early part of the season. So far, only two are on limited playing time.
Thirdbaseman and key pitcher Chris Denton has yet to step on the mound this season, nursing a nagging shoulder injury that has plagued since the preseason. However, he has been effective as a designated hitter for the Leopards in several games. Williams said he is awaiting the results of an MRI on the injured shoulder.
Caleb Herrin was supposed to revisit his doctor this week about a wrist injury he received while sliding in a Flowery Branch tournament game. He’s missed the past few games. Williams said he swung the bat some in practice earlier this week.
“Everybody else is okay,” Williams said.
Two Banks County players were recently named to the Flowery Branch Invitational Tournament All-Tourney team. Pitcher Kyle Duncan and shortstop Ross Oliver both got the honor for the team.


Berry now tops among Panther high jumpers
It seems all Jackson County high jumper Terrell Berry needed was a little confidence boost. Anything that would help him get over the bar.
So, with a solid set of jumps already in hand at a three-team meet at JCCHS on Tuesday, teammates and coaches alike all decided to aid the sophomore leaper with a bit of trickery.
In fact, it was only after Berry set the school’s new record (6-5) in the high jump that he received word from those around him that he actually had cleared an additional two inches than what his peers had told him he was attempting, something that he was obviously astonished to find out.
The jump was the second time in as many meets that Berry went into the record books, after tying Tony Gibson’s 1988 school mark two weeks ago, and it seems it is only the beginning of what may be a stellar career for the Panther track standout.
“He’s got some ability,” Jackson County coach Steve Collins explained. “He’s real green but he’s definitely got some talent.”
Berry recorded the Jackson County boys only two first-place finishes Tuesday, with his other gold coming after he ran a 54.4 in the 400 meters.
As a team though the Panthers struggled overall and took third, finishing behind Stephens County (65.50) and Johnson (47.5).
Another bright spot for Jackson County was the performance of Steven Ogletree in the hurdles. His improving times landed him second in both hurdle events on the day, running the 110-intermediate hurdles in 18.8 seconds and the 300 meter hurdles in 49.4.
Although school records did not go down on the girls side, the Lady Panthers’ opponents did, as Jackson County took home first-place in the meet with a 69-point team total.
Johnson took second with 53.5 points while Stephens County finished with 27.5.
Highlighting the effort for the Lady Panthers were a pair of athletes that won two events apiece.
Christina Nowak conquered the field in both the 1,600 meters (6:03) and the 3,200 meters (13:30), while Jaimeca Cooper did likewise in the 100 meters (12.96) and the 200 meters (28.34)
Jahnell Francis also took first in the 100 meter hurdles (19.9).
“It’s just our second meet of the season and we’re still trying to figure our where we want everybody to be,” Collins explained. “But we’re real happy with where we are right now with the girls.”
Other first-place showings for the Lady Panthers included a 100-meter relay win by the team of Crystal Yonce, Carey Yonce, Rashanda Jarrells and Cooper whose time of 54.9 was tops.
In addition, the 400-meter relay squad of Crystal Yonce, Cary Yonce, Megan Lerette and Jarrells ran a first-place time of 5:07.


Gearing Up For Some Tough Games
Call it a yardstick week for the Commerce baseball team.
The diamond Tigers are playing .500 ball right now (3-3 overall, 2-2 in region play) but whether or not they maintain or improve that mark after this week will tell much about where they stand in the region pecking order this year.
After taking on Rabun Gap this past Tuesday (results weren’t available), the Tigers are slated to play two of 8-A’s state tournament teams from last season.
Commerce has a Friday home matchup at 4:30 p.m. with Lakeview Academy, which made a first round playoff appearance in 2002, and a Tuesday road contest at 5 p.m. with rival Jefferson, which advanced to the state final four last spring.
Friday’s contest with the Lions, in particular, could be a chance for the team to prove whether or not it is a playoff contender.
“It’s someone we’ve got to beat,” he said. “We don’t necessarily have to win Friday’s game, but we need to beat teams of their caliber if we’re going to be competitive in the region.”
The Tigers, though, face a bigger task in Jefferson which along with Prince Avenue, sported a 3-0 region mark as of Monday. (The Dragons and the Wolverines squared off Tuesday). While Jefferson lost several key players from last year’s standout club, the Dragons have managed to reload this year.
“It’s hard to image that you could lose seven seniors in Class A baseball and still have a competitive team,” Cash said. “They might not be as good as they were last year, but they’re still a fine team. It’s going to be a challenge for us.”
Cash points out that anything is possible this season in the region play given the parity amongst the teams.
“Besides Prince Avenue, you could probably throw a blanket over the rest of us,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll be there in the end.”
As for his own team, Cash said his outfit has managed to stay afloat this season which has equated in a .500 record so far. However, he said questions still linger.
While he’s been satisfied overall with the pitching staff, which was a combined ERA of 3.02, the coach said the offense continues to be inconsistent. Though the Tiger bats have averaged over nine runs a game in the team’s three wins, the lineup is also striking out an average of 12 times per contest.
“We’re still striking out too much,” he said. “It’s either a big inning or nothing. We’re still trying to adjust our lineup.”
COMMERCE 9, TALLULAH FALLS 2
Clinging to a 3-2 edge in the bottom of the fifth, Commerce appeared to have its hands full with lowly Tallulah Falls.
That is until Chad Jordan stepped in the batter’s box with runners on second and third and tattooed a slow curve ball over the left field fence.
Jordan’s three-run blast gave the Tigers a 6-2 edge which they’d go on to extend to a seven-run advantage in picking up their third win of the year.
“A win is a win. Weeks from now, years from now, that’s all we’re going to remember. But it seemed like we’re a little flat. Sometimes that happens when you play a team that’s struggling. If there’s such a thing as a disappointing win—that sounds like an oxy moron—but that might be it.”
While Jordan broke Tallulah Falls’ backs with his lone hit of the day, he more impressive from the mound, working a complete game, allowing two runs, one earned run and three hits while fanning 12.
“From looking at his final pitching line, that’s an impressive game,” Cash said.
Early on it looked as if Commerce would make quick work of the Indians, taking a 3-0 lead in the first inning off a two-run single from Brandon Smallwood and a score from Josh Haynes from third off an error.
However, Tallulah Falls answered with two runs in the second inning and held Commerce hitless over the next three innings.
But Justin Beauchamp revived the Tigers’ bats in the fifth, doubling to start the inning. Cutler then reached via a walk and that’s when Jordan went deep to left field to break the game open.
Six batters later, Mitch Redmon slapped a base hit which got past the Indians’ right fielder, bringing home three more Tiger scores.
PRINCE AVENUE 11, COMMERCE 1
In the preseason, Cash speculated that Prince Avenue would be the “class of the region” in 2003.
Commerce’s Friday night matchup with the Wolverines did nothing to counter that prediction.
Spurred by 2-for-4 day from area standout Josh Fields, who had a home run triple and four RBIs in the contest, second ranked Prince Avenue cruised to an 11-1 win over the Tigers.
Prince Avenue built a four-run lead with a pair of runs in the first and then added single scores in both the second and third innings.
Fields then broke the game open with a three-run shot to straight center in the fourth.
Commerce got its lone run in the sixth when Jordan doubled home Cutler, who reached base with a double of his own.
Prince Avenue, however, finished the Tigers off in the bottom half of the inning, scoring four times to take a 10-run lead, ending the contest due to the 10-run mercy rule.


Dragon sixth inning proves costly against Wolverines
IN THE SPAN of seven innings Tuesday evening the Jefferson baseball team learned several things about itself, but perhaps the most important thing they came away with during a 5-4 loss to Prince Avenue Christian Academy is that they can play with anyone in the state.
It seems the only thing left now is for the Dragons (4-4) to put together a complete seven innings — something they failed to do against the Wolverines.
Despite a solid pitching performance by starter Michael Freeman, as well as timely hitting early in the game, three defensive miscues that contributed to a five-run sixth inning for Prince Ave. ended up costing Jefferson the game.
What had been a 4-0 Dragon advantage heading into the sixth inning turned into a 5-4 Wolverine lead after a flurry of hard hits off Dragon pitching.
Following consecutive singles and a Jefferson error in the field the game was trimmed to 4-1. Soon after a double by Ben Seagraves drove in another run and pulled Prince Ave. to within two. Two more hits and another Dragon error followed and allowed the Wolverines to take the lead.
The 5-4 advantage was all Prince Ave. needed to notch the win and separate the two teams by one game in the Region 8-A standings. Jefferson now occupies second-place with Prince Ave. and Athens Academy tied for the top spot in 8-A.
“Tonight we showed some signs of getting where we need to be but we did not play for the whole ball game,” Jefferson coach Chuck Cook said following the loss. “There are a lot of positives that came out of tonight’s game but we just made too many mistakes and you just can’t do that against a team like (Prince Ave.).”
The loss put somewhat of a damper on what had been a solid performance all around for the Dragons. Seth Potts got things off to a fiery start for Jefferson with a two-out solo home run in the first inning that put his team up 1-0. Three runs followed in the second to spur Jefferson to a 4-0 advantage.
Freeman battled Prince Ave. standout hurler Josh Fields for much of the game until he was removed in the sixth. He finished after five and 1/3 innings and gave up four earned runs. Fields threw five innings and also gave up four earned runs.
Potts finished 2-3 on the day with an RBI.
Dragons cruise past lowly Tallulah Falls in region play
Friday Jefferson traveled to struggling Tallulah Falls and came home with an easy victory to say the least. Following just three innings of play and an overwhelming onslaught of base runners the Dragons won 22-0 in what was the largest margin of victory this se season.
Freeman improved to 1-1 on the year and upped his ERA to 1.40.
Cook called the game an obvious positive result, but noted that he was more impressed with the focus the team showed despite the relative lack of competition.
“We didn’t help them out,” he explained. “We went up there and made them throw strikes and if they didn’t then we were patient and we got on base. What I was most pleased with was that we didn’t play down to the level of our opponent.”
Highlighting the Jefferson offensive numbers were Brantley Gilbert (1-2, one RBI), Jay Wood (1-1, three RBI’s), Jeremy Smith (2-2, four RBI’s), Andy Songer (2-3, three RBI’s, home run), Potts (1-2, two RBI’s), and Freeman (2-3, three RBI’s).


Clutch performers
It might be too early in the year to dub the diamond Raiders the “comeback kids” but Madison County has certainly shown it has a penchant for the dramatic so far.
Through Monday, the team was riding a three-game winning streak, staging sixth-inning comebacks in each of those victories, two of which culminated in walk-off homeruns.
Conrad Carey is the Raiders’ latest hero, swatting a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth to give his team a 10-9 win over Cedar Shoals Monday night, moments after Travis Calloway delivered a game-tying long ball over the right center field wall in nearly the same spot as Carey’s blast.
Just two games earlier, Trey McCay homered in the team’s final at-bat to give the Raiders a 2-1 win over AAAAA Oconee County.
Saturday, the team trailed Habersham Central 2-1 after five innings before exploding for nine runs in the final two.
Raider head coach Charlie Griffeth, whose team trailed Cedar Shoals 8-2 at one point Monday, said his team’s recent late-inning heroics speaks volumes about the team’s resilience.
“It showed what kind of character we’re made of and what kind of character we’ll take with us everyday,” he said.
The team’s turn arounds have started to mirror its season. After an 0-3 the team has evened its record at 3-3 with its trio of rallies and owns a 2-0 mark in region play.
“It shows that these kids are going to play seven innings, especially (Monday) night when we were down by so much,” Griffeth said. “We could have easily lost three more.”
Part of the diamond Raiders’ recent success is that several have contributed to it. While returning varsity players like Carey, Calloway, Michael Young and McCay have proven to have big bats in the clutch, varsity newcomers like Brad Osborne, Will Ryder, Micah Sales and Corey Boswell have paid dividends as well with some timely hits.
“It’s good for the team to see different kinds of people step up,” Griffeth said. “It’s good for chemistry. It’s better for a lot of kids to be doing good than have just a few doing great.”
The Raiders’ winning ways will be tested with a hectic week. After playing region foe Winder-Barrow this past Tuesday (results weren’t available as of press time), the squad will face Heritage Friday night on the road in a double header, Jackson County Monday at home in a make up of a March 17 rain-out and Clarke Central Tuesday at home which adds up to five games in eight days.
Such a schedule could put a strain on an already thin diamond Raider team.
“(This season) is going to be along grind,” Griffeth said. “We can’t afford anymore causalities.”
MADISON COUNTY 10, CEDAR SHOALS 9—EIGHT INNINGS
Ask any hitter what his though process was before a clutch homer and rarely will he answer that he had a fence—clearing shots on the mind.
Carey and Calloway, whose heroic eight inning home runs rallied the Raiders past the Jaguars by a run Monday, were no different.
“I was just trying to block out the last three at-bats and do something to help the team,” Carey said of his two-out, game-winning shot over the right center field wall, the first walk off home of his baseball career.
Calloway had similar thoughts before his game-tying shot two batters earlier.
“I was just thinking, “I’ve got to get on base somehow,’” the catcher said.
However, both knew that they were going to be trotting the bases the instant they made contact.
Said Carey: “I felt it off the bat.”
Said Calloway: “I knew it was gone.”
Calloway’s game-tying and Carey’s game-winning homers were the dramatic finale of a contest marked with a series of momentum swings.
Cedar Shoals had it early, burying Madison County early with seven runs in the first three innings of the ball game before the Raiders finally got on the scoreboard in the third with a pair of RBI singles from Young and Calloway.
Trailing 8-2 in fourth, Madison County exploded with six unanswered runs to knot the game at eight in the sixth inning.
The comeback started with scores off a wild pitch, an error and a two-out double from Ryder in the fourth. The team pulled even in the fifth with a score from McCay off an error and a clutch two-out, two-run single from Boswell.
But Cedar Shoals’ Devon Helfmeyer seemed to thwart Madison County’s comeback bid with a two-out, two-run blast in the top of the eighth.
It turned out to be only the first of three dramatic homers as Calloway ripped a fast ball over the “MC” logo in right center field to tie the ball game at nine with one out in the bottom half of the eighth.
After McCay was retired on a grounder for the second out, Carey ran the count full before drilling the payoff pitch past the right center field wall.
MADISON COUNTY 10, HABERSHAM CENTRAL 2
It took the Madison County bats a while to get to Habersham Central’s starting pitcher but when they did, they put on a hitting clinic, striking for nine runs over the last two innings to lift the Red Raiders to a 10-2 region win over Habersham.
Carey, who went 4-for-4 on the day with four RBIs, ignited the offense with a three-run shot over the right center field wall in the top of the sixth to give Madison County a 4-2 lead.
The Red Raiders then opened up the flood gates for six more scores in the top of the seventh with an RBI double from Young and a two-run double from McCay, RBI singles from Carey and Tony Tittle and a score off an error.
“It was good to see us hit it,” Griffeth said. “It took us a while for him (Habersham’s starting pitcher) to tire to finally do it, but that’s part of baseball. They say your last at-bats are better than your first ones because you’ve already seen him a few times. But it was good to see us hit it.”
Not to lost in the offensive spectacle was a 13 strike-out outing from sophomore pitcher Ben Jefferson, who pitched six innings, surrendering two runs, two hits and four walks.
“He really threw the ball well,” Griffeth said. “His breaking ball was really sharp. He might not have had that kind of success if it wasn’t working for him. I’m still concerned about too many walks.”
While Madison County won in convincing fashion, it trailed for five innings. The team surrendered a pair of Habersham scores in the bottom of the first, cutting into the lead with a score from Carey off a bases loaded walk in the top of the second before gaining the lead in the sixth.


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