Area Sports...

APRIL 9, 2003

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A matter of potential
When describing a ball club, the word “potential” most often refers to a team that isn’t very good.
But with Banks County (6-7, 1-4), that isn’t the case at all. The team really has potential.
The Leopards have a solid core of experienced defensive players, including an infield littered with upperclassmen.
Banks had a very successful offensive summertime performance. And the Leopards have a good rotation of pitchers.
But this season, the potential hasn’t capitalized into very much for the team as a whole.
“We are not playing anywhere near up to our potential,” head coach Mike Williams said. “Hopefully, it will start up and kick in.”
Already through 13 games, Banks has committed 41 errors in the field. The team, consisting of mostly the same key players, recorded only 60 errors all last year.
“We are giving up two unearned runs a game almost,” Williams said. “That’s putting pressure on our offense and pitching big time.”
Errors this season have produced a whooping 24 unearned runs, nearly one-third of the total runs given up by Leopard pitchers.
Offensively, Banks has struggled with a .279 batting average. Though not a bad average, it hasn’t been enough to put the Leopards atop several opponents, especially with only a .197 average with runners in scoring position.
And so the Leopards struggle to stay afloat amidst a stacked baseball region, where every outing is a tough one.
“Up and down the region is good,” Williams said. “It’s a battle in every single game.”
And having already lost four region contests, the Leopards are needing a turnaround in their potential quickly.
“If we start putting every aspect together, we’ll be allright,” Williams said.
Banks will try to start the turnaround at home this week.
The Leopards are set to face Providence at 5 p.m. Friday in Homer. They’ll play Lumpkin County Monday.
The Leopards were supposed to face Rabun County this past Monday. That game was rained out and rescheduled for next Thursday.
Banks went 0-2 in play over the past week, falling to GAC 14-0 Friday and Wesleyan 7-1 Wednesday.
GAC’s pitcher threw a one-hitter in the shutout of the Leopards Friday. Corey Morris had the team’s only hit in the fifth inning.
The Spartans threw up 11 hits in the mercy-rule shortened game. All of their runs were earned.
Kris Drummond started the game and pitched 1-1/3 innings, giving up five hits, two homers and nine earned runs.
Tyler Scroggs came in in relief and gave up six hits, two homers and five earned runs in 3-2/3 innings.
“I think GAC was the best team we’ve faced all year without a doubt,” Williams said. “They’re good.”
Against Wesleyan, the Leopards committed six errors and gave up five unearned runs in the 7-1 loss.
Pitchers Alex Cruce and K. Drummond gave up no walks on the mound.
A. Cruce went 3-1/3 innings, giving up only one earned run and bagging three strikeouts. K. Drummond pitched 2-2/3 innings with four hits and one earned run.
Offensively, the Leopards put seven hits in the field.
Chase Martin, who has been the offensive standout thus far, went 2-3 with a single, double and an RBI, the team’s only run.
Tyson Baxter, another recent success at the plate and behind it, went 2-3 with two hits.
C. Morris, Chris Denton and Ross Oliver all had one hit each in the loss.

Panthers come through against Blue Devils for season’s first victory
At long last things finally went their way.
Such was the feeling of the Jackson County boys soccer team, following their 1-0 victory over Elbert County last Friday. The win marked the first time the Panthers (1-9, 0-7 in Region 8-AAAA) have been triumphant in what has been a difficult season thus far.
But Friday night all their woes were forgotten, at least for a while, when Jackson County midfielder Arturo Ricardo knifed through the Elbert County defense and lofted a ball towards the goal that found the foot of Andrew Beauchamp who proceeded to find the back of the net in the 61st minute.
The goal was the first of Beauchamp’s career and a sign of how much big plays can mean to a team’s success. Ricardo, who was benched for discipline reasons in the first half by Panther coach Bob Roller, had a huge impact on the play in the second forty minutes and helped set the tone for the win — one that was sorely needed by his team.
“Ricardo’s the only true ball handler we really have so when he came in there it started opening things up for us,” Roller said.
Equally important to the win was the play of Jackson County goalkeeper Michael Rudio. His first half stop on a Blue Devil penalty kick in the 17th minute boosted Panther confidence in the rest of the game, igniting them with emotion. Another diving stop in the 28th minute on an Elbert County scoring opportunity further aided the Jackson County cause.
From there Ricardo came into the mix and provided a spark from his role in the central midfield, causing havoc in the attacking third of the field and creating scoring opportunities for the Panthers.
“Ricardo just lifted it towards the goal and Andrew came in and knocked it in for us,” Roller said after the win. “We played better in the second half than the first half...We’re just glad to get a win.”
In girls action Friday night the Lady Panthers could not emulate their counterpart’s success, as they dropped their 11-straight game of the season, this time falling 1-0 in overtime to Franklin County.
The fatal blow of what was a fiercely contested game came three minutes into the second 10-minute overtime period. The Lady Panthers are now 0-11 on the season.
A round-robin tournament this weekend will allow both team’s to play in a rare home game in the morning on Saturday, as the girls kick off the Panther Invitational at 9 a.m. against Franklin County again, while the boys host Hart County at 10:30 a.m.
Six games will be played throughout the day at Panther Stadium. Jackson County won the tournament title last year, when it was a four-team event.

Looking For A Turnaround
The Commerce baseball team would likely invite a case of amnesia to wipe away the memories of the past week on the diamond.
After going 3-0 the week before, the Commerce baseball dropped two key region contests by a combined count of 31-5 in a four-day stretch, getting bombarded 18-2 in four innings this past Friday by an explosive Social Circle squad after being trounced 13-3 by rival Jefferson last Tuesday.
Tiger baseball coach David Cash couldn’t pin his team’s sudden slump to any one thing in particular, saying that a multitude of things could have caused the slide — spring break, opponents playing good baseball, a lack of clutch hitting or some off-days from the pitching staff.
“I don’t know what to attribute it to,” he said.
Despite the lopsided losses, the team is still in the running for one of the four spots in state tournament out of the region as it’s currently tied for fourth in 8-A with a 4-4 record. Cash said his group can’t afford to dwell on the misfortune of the past week.
“It’s behind us,” he said. “We’ve got to move on. There’s not a whole lot you can say. We’ve just got to forget about it and move on. Like I told the guys, even Greg Maddux gets hit good sometimes...It’s still early. We still feel like we’re okay.”
This week, Commerce prepares to rematch two region teams it’s already taken care of this year and one upper-tier team it nearly toppled.
The Tigers host Towns County, which they downed 6-1 March 11, Friday at 4:30 p.m. before squaring off with winless Tallulah Falls on the road Monday at 4:30 p.m. Commerce beat the Indians 9-2 March 24.
The diamond Tigers will then reacquaint themselves with Athens Academy, which is currently tied for first in the region with Prince Avenue, Tuesday at home at 4:30 p.m. Commerce fell to the Spartans in an 11-inning marathon March 14, 9-8.
“Hopefully, we can gear up for Athens Academy,” Cash said. “Hopefully it will be a big game.”
Commerce’s contest this past Tuesday with Athens Christian was rained out and will be made up April 21.
After Social Circle was shutout in its previous game, an 18-run outburst wasn’t exactly what Cash thought the Red Skins would unleash Friday against the Tigers in a matchup between two schools vying for the fourth spot out of 8-A in the state playoffs.
“They came off the bus hitting against us,” he said. “I never foresaw it. We liked the matchup. We had Chad Jordan pitching who had been pitching well for us, but just for a variety of reasons, it wasn’t his day or anyone’s elses. Everyone we put in there got hit. That just confirms that it was their day.”
Commerce lasted just four innings against the Red Skins in the 16-run humbling in a game that was called due to the 15-run deficit mercy rule.
Social Circle built an 8-0 lead after two innings and struck for seven more in the third inning and three more in the fourth.
Commerce’s only scores of the game came in the bottom of the second when Sam Cutler ripped a two-out, two-strike, bases-loaded RBI single to right field to bring home both Hank Tiller and Justin Beauchamp, who both reached base via walks.
With its lead trimmed to 8-2 Social Circle answered with its most damaging inning of the afternoon, overwhelming the Tigers in the top of the third with an RBI single, a two-run double, an RBI double and a two-run single to increase the lead to 15-2.
In the following inning, the Red Skins drilled a three-run homer pad their lead at 16.
Brantley Gilbert highlighted a six-run first inning with a lead-off homer and the Dragons never looked back, adding a three-run homer in the following inning, en route to a 10-run with over Commerce last Tuesday.
Commerce got three unearned runs in the fifth as Hank Tiller, Jesse Smith and Casha Daniels scored.

Dragons ride winning streak into break
While most teams in the state will ponder what lies ahead in the second half of the season now that they’ve reached the midway point, that mentality will not be found in the Jefferson dugout. For them the notion of playing until June has become commonplace, especially in light of the team’s runs through the state playoffs in recent years. And so for coach Chuck Cook and the Dragons this year is still relatively young.
“Our goal is to have eight weeks of baseball left and to go through June first,” Cook said Tuesday after his team’s game at Social Circle was rescheduled because of rain. The Redskins will host the make-up on May 1 at 5:30 p.m.
Monday the Dragons (8-5, 7-1 in Region 8-A) out-battled a lackadaisical showing at home, as well as the Eagles, and held on for their latest region triumph, winning 5-4.
After torching Eagle pitching in the second inning for a five-run advantage, Jefferson gave up a run in each of the next four innings and stood on the doorstep of defeat in the seventh.
Nursing a 5-4 advantage the Dragons were able to escape with a win after a game-ending double play thwarted a bases-loaded one-out threat by the Eagles, however it was not the way Cook would have preferred to remain in second place in the region behind unbeaten Prince Ave. and Athens Academy.
“It wasn’t the best win in the world, but a win is a win,” Cook explained. “It was kind of a sloppy game but it was one of those that you go through sometimes.”
Cook added that JHS’s spring break this week may have played a large part in the let down Monday, however the way the Dragons dug deep and pulled out the win was a positive sign, he said.
Friday the Dragons again picked up another important region win, thanks to a more impressive outing. Riding the arm of starter Mark Price’s six-inning, four-hit, eight strikeout performance the Dragons knocked off the Lions 12-2 in the sixth via the 10-run mercy rule.
Price (5-1) allowed just two earned runs and dropped his ERA to 2.18 on the season.
While the bats were solid all day, with four players notching two-hit games, the Dragons continued to see pitching performances that allowed them to be victorious.
Its a good sign says Cook.
Along with the Dragons’ other main starter, Michael Freeman (2-1, 1.40 ERA) Jefferson has had a chance to win most every game they have played this season and if Ben Songer continues to pitch well in relief (no earned runs allowed this season) then the Dragons figure to be a force to be reckoned with as the season plays out.
“Those three guys are doing remarkably well,” Cook said of the core of his pitching staff. “They’re doing everything they need to do to keep us in games.”
While uncertainties surrounded the pitching of this team heading into the year, their strengths have shone through as planned,
Currently the team’s defense has improved steadily following an error-plagued loss to Prince Ave. on March 25 (the team’s only region defeat).
In addition, the Jefferson bats have been on fire of late, with four players hitting at .400 or better (Anthony Ferrara .500, Seth Potts, .410, and Jeremy Smith and Michael Freeman both at .400).
Hopefully, said Cook, having this week off for spring break will not affected the bats.
“I think it will be good, we could use a little bit of a break,” he said.

Looking to get back on track
It’d be fair to call the diamond Raiders a “streaky team” through 13 games this season.
But right now, the streak isn’t the one they want.
After rebounding from an 0-3 start with wins in six of seven ball games, Madison County is currently mired in another three-game slide.
The Raiders were swept in a Friday night double header against region-leading Loganville three days after falling to Clarke Central 7-2 Tuesday night.
The team’s recent skid has dropped them from first in the region into a tie for fourth place with Clarke Central, Heritage and Salem.
The Raiders’ morale will need a lift as they enter this week’s action on the heels of a marathon, 13-inning, 5-4 heartbreaking loss against Loganville in the night cap of their double header with the Red Devils.
After being routed 16-8 in the first game, the Raiders led the 4-1 in the top of the seventh but Loganville forced extra innings with a three-run blast from Robbie Hearn.
Madison County then fell in the 13th as the Red Devils notched the eventual winning score off a three-base throwing error.
Paired with the first game, the two schools squared off for a total of 20 innings and nearly six hours.
The Raiders will try to snap their three-game slide when they reacquaint themselves with old Region 8-AAA foe Eastside Friday in a 5 p.m. double header on the road.
Madison County split the season series with the Eagles last season.
A rematch with Jackson County then awaits Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. on the road. Madison County downed the Panthers 7-2 last Monday. Jackson County has won just one region game this year.
The Raiders were slated to rematch Habersham Central this past Tuesday but the contest was rained out.
No make up date has been set.
After 13-innings of relatively mistake-free baseball, a three-base throwing error allowed Loganville to slip past Madison County in what was the longest game in Raider coach Charlie Griffeth’s 16-year tenure in Danielsville.
With a runner on first, Loganville’s Anthony Weatherford laid a bunt toward third but Trey McCay delivered an arrent throw to first which allowed baserunner Robbie Benedict to come all the way home, barely beating right fielder Micah Sales throw to the plate to give Loganville a 5-4 lead.
The run was the only score between the teams in six extra innings.
Madison County could only muster one single in the bottom half of the inning before Sales grounded out to end the game.
Freshman Brad Osborne picked up the loss but performed valiantly against the region’s leading outfit, working all six extra innings, surrendering just three hits and the one unearned score.
Armed with a 4-1 lead heading into the final inning, Raider starter Michael Young appeared to have a gem going, limiting Loganville to just one run and a single hit through six.
However, Hearn finally got to Young with one out seventh, drilling a towering three-run homer off the light pole to knot the game at four runs. It was only Loganville’s second hit of the evening.
Young finished the night with seven strikeouts in seven innings pitched.
Before Hearn’s blast it appeared that Tony Tittle was to be the hero of the day for the Raiders.
With the score tied at 1-1 in the top of the fifth inning, the senior centerfielder robbed Hearn of an extra basehit with a diving grab into the wall on which he banged his head but still came up with the catch.
Then in the bottom half of the inning, Tittle drilled line drive, two-run homer over the same wall he made his acrobatic grab against to give the Raiders a 3-1 lead.
Calloway followed Tittle in the sixth with a first-pitch, towering solo shot to right center field to pad the Raider lead at three runs.
Madison County intially got on the scoreboard in the second inning when Will Ryder hit into a double play to score McCay.
While the Raiders showed some late-inning life in their 16-8 loss to Loganville in the first game, the Red Devils stocked piled more than enough insurance early on to coast to the win.
Loganville scored twice in both the first and second innings and then five times in the third to bury Madison County under a 12-1 deficit.
Madison County got going with three runs in the bottom of the fourth off a two-run homer from McCay and an RBI single from Will Ryder and another score in the fifth to trim the lead to seven, but Loganville responded with a three-run homer in the top of the seventh.
The Raiders made some offensive noise in final inning before eventually falling, scoring three times in the bottom of the seventh with a two-run single from Calloway and an RBI sacrifice fly from Conrad Carey.

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