With a 1-2 region record, the Diamond Leopards (6-5, 1-2) are hoping some of their next few opponents underestimate them.
I think some people are going to start taking us lightly and we can jump on them and make a run, coach Mike Williams.
The Leopards start into the region schedule has been tough, dropping two of their first three games. However those losses havent been a factor of inadequacy but rather a product of a few defensive and pitching mistakes with runners on base.
Weve struggled a little bit getting people out defensively and with our walks, Williams said. We can beat anybody in our region but weve got to put everything together. Weve got to play up to our capability and I dont think were doing that right now.
The Leopards definitely need to play up to their capability as the region schedule isnt going to get much easier over the next few weeks.
Banks was set to play at Wesleyan Wednesday night and will host region top dog GAC Friday.
Our whole region is good, Williams said.
Monday Banks goes to Rabun County to face a program that has struggled somewhat this season. The Leopards will be on the road at Dawson County next Wednesday.
Banks will likely concentrate on capitalizing on scoring opportunities, having left a plethora of base runners on the diamond in the last two losses.
Hopefully we can get this ball rolling, Williams said. We need to get on a little run here.
A rough first inning and a sixth-inning grandslam all but sealed the Leopards fate Monday afternoon in their 10-5 loss to Buford.
Banks left six runners stranded through the first three innings before finally getting on the board in the fourth.
Thats been our problem; weve left too many people on base, Williams said.
Down 5-0 going into the bottom of the fourth, the Leopards made a run at the lead.
Tyson Baxter led off with a walk followed by a walk for Caleb Herrin. Both advanced on a wild pitch, leaving first base open.
Corey Morris put the ball down in front of the pitcher and a bad throw to first allowed him to move to third and the two runners scored.
Jacob Williams hit a sacrifice fly into centerfield that allowed C. Morris to score, cutting the lead to 5-3.
The Leopards held the score close in the top of the fifth, thanks in part to Chase Martins diving catch on a line drive with a runner in scoring position. Had he not made the catch, two runners likely would have scored on the Leopards.
We were feeling confident, Williams said. I thought we were going to make a comeback.
But in the top of the sixth, two hit batters and an error loaded the bases and set up a Buford grand slam that set the game at 9-3.
That kind of took us out of it, Williams said. But we didnt give up.
Banks went to add another two runs in the seventh. The Wolves scored one more.
BANKS 17, APALACHEE 7
The Leopards had 12 hits and 17 runs in a game shortened to five innings by the mercy rule last week, downing Apalachee 17-7.
We didnt play great win but we won, Williams said. Well take that win and be glad to have it.
The Leopards trailed 6-4 at one point in the contest and found themselves fighting to stay in the ball game.
In the bottom of the third, Banks added seven runs that gave the Leopards the lead and pushed them on to the win. Apalachee scored only one more run after that.
Tyler Scroggs pitched a complete five innings.
They had some bloop hits on us, Williams said.
Early last week, the Leopards fell 5-2 to Union County in the region opener.
Chris Denton, who has nursed a shoulder injury all year long, was back on the diamond defensively this week. He saw time at first for the injured Kris Drummond.
K. Drummond took a ball off the back of his hand last week. He missed the Apalachee game but was able to take some at bats Monday against Buford. He also came in late in the game at first.
C. Denton still hasnt been on the mound for the Leopards. Williams said he was scheduled to get the results of an MRI on Tuesday that will help determine his future.
Caleb Herrin, who injured his wrist in the Flowery Branch tournament, was in the lineup at DH over the past week. The Leopards look for him to return full strength within the next few games.
Williams said he has been impressed with C. Martins play as lead off man thus far this year.
Hes done a great job leading off, Williams said. He has really stepped up for us.
C. Martin leads the team in batting .412 average. He also has a .500 on base percentage. He has six stolen bases for the year as well.
Williams added that catcher T. Baxter has started to come through offensively.
Hes coming on now, Williams said.
Baxter has also thrown out seven base runners from behind the plate.
Panthers remain in house, name four-year assistant to head up boys basketball program
After nearly a six-week search for a new boys basketball coach at Jackson County, it seems the Panthers had their replacement sitting on the bench all along this past season.
Thursday Jackson County announced the hiring of long-time assistant coach Richard Crumley to head up the boys program and replace departed coach Ron Smith who was relieved of his duties on Feb. 14 following a two-year stint with the team. Ironically enough, Crumley led the team to one of their two wins this past season at Madison County, as he served as the interim coach while Smith was absent because of illness on Feb. 4.
Crumleys hiring was approved by the Jackson County board of education following the recommendation of athletic director Brent Brock and principal Robin Hines at a called meeting Thursday night in Jefferson.
Crumley is now the third coach Jackson County has had for the boys basketball team in the past four years, as Smith replaced former coach Ron Garren in 2001 after two years with the team.
This has been a goal of mine since I began coaching to be a head coach, Crumley said. I think my experience of being an assistant has helped me develop the necessary skills required to be a head coach from schedules and practices to game plans.
Crumley, 38, a resident of Maysville, is a 1983 graduate of JCCHS and a 1989 graduate of UGA. His 12-year coaching experience includes seven years at the middle school level (at both Jackson County Middle School, and later at East Jackson Middle School), one year as a coach at Maysville Elementary, as well as the past four years at JCCHS where he has been the top assistant for the both the boys and girls basketball teams for two years apiece.
Crumley received an undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia in 1989, specializing in education.
As a member of Smiths staff the past two seasons Crumley has witnessed the team go from a talented state tournament squad in 2001 to this past years 2-24 team that struggled mightily in their first year as a member of Class AAAA.
Crumleys hiring was made official after a lengthy interviewing process, Brock stated, during which over three dozen inquiries were received. Eventually the list was shortened to a group of three top candidates, of which, Crumley was the only one from within the school system.
Brock indicated that interest in the job was substantial and was not limited to just those in the Northeast Georgia area. However, in the end the move to remain in house was seen as the best decision for both the team and the future of Panther basketball.
We received interest from people all over the (southeast) region, from Tennessee, Florida and all over, Brock explained. But I believe we have made the right decision.
I appreciate our Board of Education and administration entrusting both Dr. Hines and myself with finding a quality person and a fine coach. I believe Richard possesses a lot of intangibles and he has those qualities we are looking for. He has been around the program so he knows the nuts and bolts of this program...and he has a passion for the school and has put together a plan for the future.
Although past coaching turnover has been plentiful, Brock indicated that he hopes the latest hiring will provide stability to a program that has been in a state of flux in recent years.
When we hire people, the best thing to do is to move forward and I believe that is what coach Crumley is going to do, Brock explained. I fully expect Richard Crumley to have a long tenure here, but at the same time I understand that there are no quick fixes, but if we can bring a sense of stability to the program then well be better off.
Crumley indicated that although a quick time table for turnaround within the program is preferred it is difficult to predict.
We would like to be competitive as soon as possible but everything depends on how hard the kids work, Crumley said.
As far as coaching philosophies go, Crumley stated that he would prefer to play an aggressive style next season, changing defenses and operating out of numerous sets on offense. In particular he plans to emphasize rebounding and taking care of the basketball as a team.
Mainly though, finding the will to win appears to be of foremost concern for the Panthers next season.
Our goals will be to improve the work ethic of the kids, as well as the overall fundamental...were going to work real hard to improve our strength and conditioning but the overall dedication of everybody involved is going to be important.
The Panthers are slated to attend a bevy of camps this summer, during which Crumley will adjust to his role as the programs architect.
On A Roll
Its still early, but the diamond Tigers (5-3) can already point to one significant indicator that theyre an improved outfit in 2003.
After pulling out a 4-3 extra- inning thriller over Lakeview Academy Friday, the team has already surpassed its win total of four games last year in just eight contests this season.
But dont expect the team to be satisfied with achieving that simple footnote.
As of Monday, Commerce sat in fourth place in 8-A, winners of three straight region contests.
The top four teams from each region at the end of the regular season move on to the state playoffs.
It was a very good week for Commerce Tiger baseball, Tiger head coach David Cash said. We went 3-0 and it puts us in a good spot in the region.
What may be more important than the streak itself is that the team stepped up its play in each game from the previous one in the trio of wins.
The teams streak started Monday with a somewhat lackluster 9-2 victory over region doormat Tallulah Falls followed by an impressive 13-6 stomping of seventh-place Rabun Gap last Tuesday before outlasting then-fourth place Lakeview this past Friday.
The win over the Lions, who made the state playoffs in 2002, might stand as the most impressive of the team's five triumphs this year, especially since Lakeview downed Commerce by a combined 23-10 in two meetings last Spring.
That was a big win for us, Cash said.
While the coach warns that much of the region schedule remains to be played, the Tigers have solidified themselves as an early state playoff contender. Commerce is 4-2 now in the region and a hair away from being 5-1 if not for a marathon 9-8 11-inning loss to Athens Academy March 14.
While Cash believes his team has gotten its share of breaks this year, he said his group continues to win the games they need to win and battle in ones where they might be underdogs.
Were beating the teams were supposed to beat and hold our own against teams that were equal to or that are better than us, he said.
Much of the success thus far this year goes to the Tiger pitching staff which is led by senior Chad Jordan, who has a 3-0 record with a 1.21 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 29 innings of work.
Jordan worked a combined 15 innings during his teams three-game winning streak, surrendering just one earned run.
He has emerged as our best pitcher to date, Cash said.
Overall, the Commerce pitchers have a combined 2.49 ERA.
Offensively, Commerce the Tigers have hit good enough to win but is still lacking at the plate according to the coach, batting just .243 The team hit 31 points higher last year.
Our batting averages still arent what we need them to be, Cash said.
One surprise bat this year has been Jesse Smith who continues to be on fire, hitting at a .458 clip this year. Smith had two, two-out singles in Commerces win over Lakeview.
The Tigers will likely need their bats this week as they turn their attention to another pair important 8-A contests after playing rival Jefferson Tuesday night in a key region contest (results werent available as of press time),
Its getting to the point no where you look at every game to see how its going to shape up for the playoffs, Cash said.
The Tigers play the team breathing down their necks right now in the region standings Friday fifth-place Social Circle. The Red Skins are an offensive outfit which drilled six homers against Lakeview Academy, but are also equipped with what Cash called a hoss as their number one starter.
Theyll bring a lot of power and have at least one good pitcher, he said.
The team then cant afford a slip up against 1-3 Athens Christian Tuesday.
Weve played them the past few years, Cash said. They havent been in our region but theyre developing into a rival. Its one of those games you feel on paper you might have a better team but you never know. Its one of those we have to win if we want to advance to the state playoffs.
COMMERCE 4, LAKEVIEW 3
Getting drilled in the shoulder likely never felt better for the Tigers Justin Beauchamp.
With two outs and his team tied with Lakeview Friday night in the bottom of the eighth inning with the bases full, the Commerce sophomore was struck by an errant pitch from Lakeview hurler Tony Cash, forcing in the game-winning run, giving the Tigers a come-from-behind, 4-3 win.
Just when you think youve seen it all, something like that happens, Cash said.
That scenario wouldnt have been possible if it werent for some timely hitting by Commerce in the bottom of the sixth and seventh as the Tigers battled back from a 3-1 deficit with two scores.
Jesse Smith tied the contest in the seventh with a two-out RBI single between Lakeviews third baseman and shortstop, bringing home Beauchamp.
An inning earlier, Smith singled to lead off the inning and scored from third two batters later to cut the Lion lead to 3-2.
The hot-hitting Smith accounted for Commerces initial run, getting a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the third to score Adam Weddington.
On the mound, Chad Jordan mirrored the offenses clutch efforts with another stellar outing, working eight innings and surrendering just one earned run.
Jordan maintained a1-0 Tiger advantage until the top of the sixth when Lakeview picked up an RBI single to knot the contest at one run.
Two unearned Lion scores followed two batters later after to a wild throw from Casha Daniels to first allowed runners to score from second and third, putting Commerce behind by two runs.
We had every opportunity to fold the tent, Cash said of the win. Hopefully, we can use this the rest of the year.
COMMERCE 13, RABUN GAP 6
The offensive flood gates swung wide open in the fifth inning of Commerces matchup with Rabun Gap last Tuesday as the Tigers chalked up eight scores to rally from two runs down and take a 13-6 win.
Doing the most damage in the hit parade were Beauchamp who had a double; Sam Cutler, who had two hits and two RBIs; Jordan, who had two hits and an RBI; Brandon Smallwood, who had a hit and four RBIs; Josh Haynes, who had two doubles and an RBI; and Justin Howell, who had a two-run double.
All nine players in Commerces starting lineup got at least one hit.
Beauchamp earned the win from the mound, working the final two and two-thirds innings, surrendering just one hit no earned runs or walks while striking out five.
Casha Daniels started the game and worked four and one-third innings, surrendering three hits, five runs, one earned run, four walks and striking out 10 before giving way to Haynes who surrendered two hits and a run in the fifth but didnt get anyone out.
Commerce held a 4-2 lead after five innings, picking up one score in each of the first four innings. However, Rabun Gap trumped Commerce with with four scores in the top half of the sixth to take the lead before the Tigers exploded in the bottom half of the inning.
Jefferson tracksters run away with consecutive home meets
The Jefferson girls track and field team turned things up a notch in their last two times competing, as they began a six-meet homestand last week.
The stretch of consecutive meets at Memorial Stadium pits the squad against the meat of their schedule, primarily facing off against other teams from Region 8-A during the stretch.
Tuesday the team was extremely impressive against region foes Rabun Gap and Athens Christian, winning the team competition with 76 points, outdistancing Rabun Gaps 55.
Nine first-place finishes highlighted the afternoons activities as Jeffersons Brittany Caudell, Shenita Moon and Vanessa Guzman took first-place in two events apiece.
Caudell may have had the best day all around of the Lady Dragons, as she ran a quick 53.04 time in her first-ever race in the 300-meter hurdles, ran the first leg on both the first-place 400-meter relay team and the 100-meter relay squad that crossed the finish line with their fastest time of the season (53:59).
Were starting to get a good idea of where to put people, Jefferson coach Tim Corbett said. We havent finalized things yet but were getting an idea of where we want people.
Last week the Lady Dragons began the homestand with a rout of Tallulah Falls and Rabun Gap, nearly doubling the point total of the second-place Lady Indians.
The Lady Dragons 96 points were secured following standup efforts both on the track and on the infield events.
Michelle Boring and Annie Goza finished first and second in both the discus and shot put, with Goza securing the top discus toss of the day (109-9), over 10 feet better than her previous-best, and Borings throw of 31-3 tops in the shot.
Elsewhere in the field events, Champlins ruled the pole vault, with Katie Champlin taking first-place after clearing seven feet and Kristie Champlin third-best on the day (5-6).
Shenita Moon claimed top honors in the long jump, with Vanessa Guzman earning third-place, and Erin Walker tops among high jumpers on the day.
Guzman was solid on the track as well, winning both the 1,600 meters (5:57.26) and the 800 meters (2:36.41). She also helped the 400-meter relay team (Caudell, Erin Walker, Michelle Boring and Guzman) take top honors on the day with a time of 4:27.38.
Likewise the 100-meter relay team of Caudell, Walker, Boring and Shenita Moon ran a first-place time of 53.81.
Caudell took first in two other events, winning both the 100-meter hurdles and the 400 meters, Walker won the 200 meters (28.69), while Moon equaled a season-best time with a first-place showing in the 100-meters. Tylia Hunter and Alma Solis took second and third respectively behind Moon, each also equaling season-best times.
Coach Tim Corbett indicated that his team continued to work on their times saw the competition as yet another step in the right direction for the team.
It was great to finish first in so many events, but more importantly we performed well (21 season-best performances on the day), Corbett explained. (I was) also proud of several who entered different events this week and performed well most notably Brittany Caudell in the triple jump and 100 meter hurdles and Sara Holden in the triple jump.
A good start....but a long way left to go
Standing near the top of the 8-AAAA standings with a 5-2 region record, the Madison County baseball team (6-5 overall) no doubt has enjoyed a swift start out of the gate in a new classification.
But Raider head coach Charlie Griffeth is quick to warn thats all it is a start.
With 15 contests remaining in a grueling 22-game region slate, it remains to be seen how the diamond Raiders will finish over the next month in a schedule that will include five double headers.
Weve still got a long way to go, said Griffeth Monday whose team fell to Clarke Central 7-2 a night later (see next weeks paper for details). Its a very competitive region. We cant afford to take a night off.
Taking a night off is something Griffeth said he felt his team might have done in its 7-2 win over struggling Jackson County Monday, something it cant afford to do Friday when it faces region-leading Loganville in a double header which kicks off at 5 p.m. in Danielsville.
The Raiders will likely find out if they do in fact have a legitimate claim to being one of the top teams in 8-AAAA with the twin bill with the tradition-rich Red Devils.
Loganville, runners up in the state in AAA last spring, won the region 8-AAA crown last year by five games with an 18-0 record and beat Madison County by a combined score of 13-4 in two contests in 2002.
Griffeth said the Red Devils will return roughly half of the players of their standout squad from a year ago.
Theyll be good, Griffeth said.
Madison County heads in the contest as winners of six of its last eight games after an 0-3 start. The Raiders picked up three of those wins this past week, blasting Winder-Barrow 13-5 last Tuesday and splitting with Heritage Friday before downing Jackson County.
MADISON COUNTY 7,
JACKSON COUNTY 2
A five-run win in a region game in most cases instills confidence, but Griffeth wasnt eager to pass out praise after Madison Countys 7-2 victory Monday night over a Jackson County program that didnt win a Region 8-AAA game last year.
In fact, ugly, was the coachs assessment of the contest following the victory.
Early indications pointed toward a Raider rout as Madison County scored six runs in the fist two innings of the ball game.
However, the Raider offense managed just one score over the final five in taking its fifth region win of the year.
The team didnt need a bulk of runs over those final innings anyway as Michael Young held Jackson County in check from the mound to pick up his second win of the year.
The junior hurled a complete game, surrendering two runs and seven hits while striking out nine Panthers.
Young didnt allow a run over the last four innings.
Griffeth agreed that Young produced a solid outing.
Yeah, he threw a lot of strikes, and thats what youve got to do, Griffeth said.
It the first inning, though, it appeared that Young might be in store for a long night, surrendering what the Jackson County dugout thought was a two-run homer to right field to the Panthers Preston Shiflet.
But as Shiflet rounded first, the home plate umpire ruled that the ball had saled right of the foul pole and Young settled down and worked his way out of the inning.
Travis Calloway then delievered a blast of his own in fair territory in the bottom half of the inning a two-run shot to left field to give Madison County a 2-0 lead.
The Raider lead grew to 6-1 in the the bottom of the second with a four-run inning with a score from Cody Ferguson off an error, a two-run single from Young and an RBI single from Conrad Carey.
Jackson County inched closer a score in the top of the third but Madison County eventually got the run back in the fifth after Trey McCay scored from third off an error.
MADISON COUNTY 4, HERITAGE 2 GAME ONE
Madison County demonstrated more of its recent late-inning savy in its 4-2 win over Heritage in the first game of a twin bill Friday night in picking up its fifth consecutive victory.
Knotted at a run apiece with the Patriots, Madison County struck for three scores in the top of the sixth to lift it to Patriots, a AAAA playoff team from last year.
It was Madison Countyís fourth region win of the year.
Raider pitcher Ben Jeffers moved to a perfect 3-0 on the year, working six innings, surrendering six hits and a run while striking out eight.
Michael Young then spelled Young in the bottom of the seventh and surrendered a run before closing the door on Heritage.
Madison County broke on the scoreboard first in the top of the third with an RBI single from Calloway to score Young before the Patriots pulled even two innings later with a run in the bottom of the fifth.
Micah Sales, however, broke the tie in that key sixth inning. After back-to-back singles from Carey and McCay, Sales ripped a base hit to right field to bring home Carey. McCay and Sales then came home later in the inning on a Heritage error.
HERITAGE 6, MADISON COUNTY 2 GAME TWO
Hours after earning their fourth-straight region win and fifth consecutive victory, the Raiders saw that streak end as Heritage struck for a run in the first, two in the fourth and three in the fifth to down Madison County 6-2.
Down 1-0, the Raiders temporarily took a lead with an RBI single from Young and a run from Will Ryder, who came home after Trey McCay got in a run down.
Thad Pruett started the game and worked to the fifth before being relieved by Thad Pruett.