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MAY 14, 2003

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That’s a wrap
Editor’s note: See next week’s Banks County News sports section for final season stats for the Diamond Leopards.
A crazy year of rainouts and sprinkler rain delays came to an end Monday afternoon.
The Diamond Leopards closed out their season in a make-up game with Lumpkin Monday to end a 7-19 season.
“For the most part, we didn’t play complete games,” head coach Mike Williams said. “Throughout the season, we didn’t reach our full potential.”
The Leopards were plagued with defensive errors and walks thoughout the season that, coupled with stiff region competition, made Banks’ season rough going.
“I think when you make some mistakes you’ve got to forget about it and make the next play,” Williams said. “Our confidence got shattered a little bit and we got down and put pressure on ourselves.”
Banks will lose five seniors off this year’s team. Ross Oliver, Corey Morris, Chris Denton, Kris Drummond and Kyle Duncan have all played their final game for the Leopards.
“We’re losing some quality players and some quality kids,” Williams said. They’re a pretty good group of guys. They will be missed without a doubt and they’ll be missed off the field as students and people.”
In a special game that had to be made up to determine region seedings, the Leopards fell 16-7 to Lumpkin at home Monday.
“They really hit it,” Williams said. “They knew their chances on getting in depended on us and they came out swinging their bats.”
Lumpkin had to beat Banks and then beat Buford in the continuation of a game that was postponed due to rain earlier in the season. Both games were played at Banks County. The Indians lost to Buford and didn’t get into the playoffs.
For the Leopards, Tyson Baxter put one over the fence in right field. He was 2-4 with a walk on the day.
“It got out of there in a hurry,” Williams said of Baxter’s homerun.
R. Oliver was also 2-4 for the Leopards. K. Drummond, Chase Martin, Alex Cruce, C. Morris and Michael Haynes also had hits. Banks had a total of 10 hits in the loss.
“We hit the ball okay I thought,” Williams said.
The Leopards put four pitchers on the mound in the final game.
In what the Leopards thought was their last game Friday, Banks fell 11-2 to Wesleyan on senior night.
Through the fifth inning, the Wolves had gained a 10-0 lead before Banks scored its first run.
In the bottom of the fifth, A. Cruce hit a double into deep centerfield. He later stole third and then scored on a balk.
In the bottom of the seventh with the score at 11-1, the Leopards picked up another run.
K. Drummond led off with a double into left center. A ground out two batters later allowed him to move to third.
C. Morris then grounded to the pitcher, who could pick the ball up, allowing K. Drummond to score Banks’ only other run.
Though the Leopards didn’t have much offense in the contest, the game wasn’t without other highlights.
Early in the third inning, A. Cruce made a diving catch in foul territory along the third base line to pick up an out.
Later in the same inning, the game was delayed briefly after the sprinkler system in the outfield was activated and had to be shut off.
T. Baxter ended the top of the fifth from behind the plate with a pickoff of the man at second.
Banks dropped both games in a five-inning doubleheader with Providence Thursday afternoon on the road.
In the first game, the Leopards fell 13-4 after making a plethora of errors and allowing seven walks and two hit batters.
C. Denton had a solo shot in the contest for Banks. He also had two RBIs for the game.
“He’s come on offensively,” Williams said. “He really did a good job for us in the number four spot.”
T. Baxter and R. Oliver were both 2-3 in the game.
In game two, Banks fell 8-1 to the Stars. The Leopards had only two hits, compared with nine in the first game.
The Leopards committed seven errors in game two, allowing seven unearned runs.
“That’s the tale of the season,” Williams said.
C. Martin and T. Baxter had the team’s only two hits.

Diamond Dragons land third seed, to play at Bowdon on Thursday
One pitch at a time, one hit at a time and one game at a time.
That’s the mentality Jefferson coach Chuck Cook hopes his team will have when they travel to Bowdon on Friday to play in their first-round series of the Class A state playoffs.
And, according to the philosophy which he has harped all week long at practice, all the Dragons need to do is win by one single run each time they step on the field. Anything less in two-of-three games from here on out and the season is over.
But, despite what was characterized as a lackadaisical and absent-minded showing in the team’s last two games of the regular season (losses to Lakeview 12-2 and Social Circle 7-5), if the Dragons come out focused their chances of moving on to the second round are fairly good, according to Cook.
“Honestly, I feel pretty good about our chances,” Cook explained. “I know Bowdon is an interesting place to play but I feel good about this one. From what I have heard of them, this is not the traditional Bowdon team of the past which was an explosive and overpowering pitching staff.”
One thing Jefferson can expect to see come Friday is a hostile environment, however because of past experiences playing against the Red Devils in the playoffs, Cook is not as concerned with the surroundings as he is with his team’s focus.
“We have the talent to go down there and win we just have to concentrate and put it all together when we step out on the field. We’ve just got to take care of business and not allow the fans or the atmosphere to bother us,” Cook explained.
The squad’s recent tumbles at Lakeview and against Social Circle to close out the season were largely the result of a lack of focus for one reason or another, which is something that has seemed to plagued the Dragons at times this year.
In losses to Prince Ave., Athens Academy and Lakeview, Jefferson held the game firmly in control before allowing a big inning by their opponent and then deflating.
Using those contests as motivation, Cook stated that Jefferson has regrouped this week at practice and he has treated each player as if they were just trying out for the squad at the beginning of the year.
“We really have no true leader on our team, so I just told the guys I’m looking for a few good men to take with me to Bowdon and I told them all I need is nine to play and really things have been much better (this week).
The Dragons ended the region season in third place with a record of 13-5, behind second-place Athens Academy and first-place Prince Ave. The Wolverines went through the region schedule unscathed and entered the state playoffs as the No. 1 ranked team in the state. Jefferson may have given them their biggest test of the season when they led 4-0 heading into the final two innings before a late Wolverine rally.
“When we come out ready to play we have the talent to but we just have to have our normal focus when we come out on Friday and I feel like we’ll be fine,” Cook said.

Flint, Eason To Throw Against State’s Best Thursday
Tiger track team throwers Kenny Flint and Tommy Eason have spent all spring improving and their coach hopes they’ll continue to be on the upswing this Thursday at the state meet in Jefferson.
Region 8-A discus champion Kenny Flint will compete at 2 p.m. in the “blue circle” while region shot put runner-up Tommy Eason will throw at 4 p.m. on the”red circle.”
“I’m kind of cautiously optimistic,” Tiger track coach Terry Canup said. “Hopefully, they’ll be able to place at state. You just never know what’s coming out of south Georgia.”
Heading into the meet, Canup said he’s been encouraged by the strong signs the duo has shown on the practice field during the past week. However, the coach pointed out that the atmosphere will be much different in the company of Class A’s best.
“They’re both improving, they’re throwing better than they were at region,” Canup said Monday. “But you’ve got to do that at state...You’ve got to be able to deal with the pressure at state.”
Though the pair of throwers have a tall task ahead of them, Flint and Eason’s opportunity to compete at state is something Canup is eagerly awaiting.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “I’m extremely happy for both of them. They’ve worked really hard. It’s good to see them reaping the benefits.”
Canup was also overly pleased with the track team’s showing at the region meet this past week where it earned a fifth-place finish in 8-A with 46 points.
“I was really excited about our finish at the region meet,” he said. The people we had at the meet scored points.”

Georgia’s best to converge on Jefferson
Much like they have been doing for roughly the last three decades the pinnacle of high school boys track and field in the state will call Jefferson’s Memorial Stadium home for three days beginning Thursday.
For the 32nd time in school history, the Georgia Games will be hosted at Jefferson’s Memorial Stadium, and with each and every year the event seems to get bigger and bolder.
With five classifications of schools competing in sixteen events throughout the three days of the meet, the influx of teams, coaches, athletes, parents and fans associated with the meet will be felt by many in the Jefferson community.
Organizers for the event rely heavily on community members volunteering their time and energy in preparation of the Games, as well as the support of other coaches and athletic departments from throughout the state.
“The key is the community, it takes a little bit of everybody coming together to make things run smoothly, but it seems like there’s always something that you don’t plan for that happens and you just have to deal with it,” Jefferson girls coach Tim Corbett said.
Corbett, who will take over as Jefferson athletic director and the boys and girls track coaches next season, has been an integral part of the planning for the event both in the past and this year.
His role in the direction of this year’s Games was further increased this week because boys track coach and departing JHS athletic director James Pinion has been dealing with a death in the family. Pinion has been a longtime architect for the event.
Corbett estimated that upwards of 40 students will volunteer time this week during the event, as well as a slew of parents and others.
“What’s impressive is the amount of people that donate their time,”
Corbett said. “A lot of times you can find someone that is willing to donate money, but to give up their time is not always that easy.”
Dragons qualify nine for state
On the track this week, nine Jefferson athletes will be taking aim at a chance to win a state crown after the Dragons came from behind on the final day of competition last week to win the Region 8-A meet.
Jefferson amassed 141 team points to beat out Tallulah Falls (105).
The Dragons won eight of the 16 events at the region meet and finished in second in three others.
Jefferson qualified for state in both the 4 X 400 and 4 X100-meter relays as well as seven other individual events.
Qualifiers for this week’s state meet are as follows:
• Courtney Wiley will be competing on both relay teams, as well as the long jump this week. He claimed the 8-A long jump title last week.
• Stephen Wiley will compete on both relay squads and in the triple jump, an event which he took first-place in at the region meet.
• Johnny Quiggle, the region high jump champion, will compete in that event.
• Travis Reed won both the 110-meter high hurdles and the 300 meter hurdles last week at the region meet to qualify for state competition.
• Montray Riley took second in the region in the 100 meters and was on the 4 X 100-meter relay team which qualified for state.
• Tavares Mackey was second in the 400 meters and the was on the 4 X 100-meter relay squad headed to state.
• Andy Martin ran on the second-place 4 X 100-meter relay squad and the region champion 4 X 400-meter relay, each of which will compete this week in state.
• Brandon Vinson ran on the 4 X 100-meter relay squad that qualified for state.
• Justin Mize ran on the 4 X 100-meter relay squad that qualified for state.

State Awaits
Ask the diamond Raiders after their first three games this season what their plans for May would be and that agenda would probably center around the swimming pool and summer vacation, not the AAAA state playoffs.
After all, after March 11 the team stood at 0-3 before region play ever started and appeared to be sinking fast with a pair of losses to AAA Elbert County and an 11-0 embarrassment at the hands of Oconee County.
“After playing Elbert County and Oconee County, we were trying to find eight wins on the schedule. That’s about the best you could project,” 16th-year Madison County head coach Charlie Griffeth said of the team’s start this year.
What a difference two months can make.
Not only has the team far surpassed that total, but eight wins is the number of victories the team has collected in its last 10 games as Madison County (16-10, 15-7) proved to be one of the hottest squads in 8-AAAA in the second half of the season in rallying for a AAAA playoff berth.
The Raiders will now open the state playoffs against Region 5-AAA third seed Westlake in a best of three series, starting Friday afternoon at 5 p.m in a double header. The teams will play Saturday if necessary. No time has been set

for that contest.
The Atlanta-based school, led by an outfielder/pitcher who’s already signed with Georgia Tech, didn’t wrap up its regular until Tuesday night when it lost a resumed tie game against 5-AAAA number one seed Druid Hills, giving it the three seed.
Thanks to a pair of wins over Clarke Central and Rockdale County this past week, Madison County wrapped up the second seed out of its region in the state playoffs to earn home field advantage in the first round for the second straight year.
This year’s showing in the state tournament will also be Madison County’s seventh overall under Griffeth.
The poise of this year’s team in the face of an adverse start is something that’s been indicative of the program in recent years.
In addition to the well-documented exploits of Madison County’s 1998 team which turned a 4-8 start into a runner-up showing in AAA that season, the Raiders rallied from a 7-9 start just last season to finish 18-13 and make a “Sweet 16” appearance in the state tournament.
“It’s kind of like a lot of the teams we’ve had here. They have that ‘never-say-die’ attitude,” said Griffeth whose program sports a combined 21-7 record in 2002 and 2003 after April 11.
The Raiders definitely will have an opportunity to add to that mystique this weekend as they face task of entering the opening round of the AAAA state tournament with a depleted pitching staff.
A sudden rash of injuries has made spot starter Micah Sales (inflamed elbow) and top reliever Brad Osborne (collision in Thursday’s Clarke Central game) unavailable. Brent Burkhalter, who has spent the year battling back from arm surgery, is suffering soreness in his arm again and won’t able to pitch. Griffeth said he hopes the junior can play in the outfield at some point.
Throw into the mix that one of the outfit’s top starters, Ben Jeffers, is under a doctor-ordered 90 pitch count and that leaves the Raiders some hurdles to clear in the postseason.
“We’re going into it (the state tournament) with only four pitchers and one of them is on a pitch count, but you can’t control what happens,” Griffeth said.
While pitching remains a question mark, Madison County should go into the tournament with plenty of confidence in the batters box after scoring 26 runs in two games this past week.
The team is also averaging almost 10 runs a game in its last seven contests.
“I hope we stay hot,” Griffeth said. “Travis Calloway has cooled off a little bit but Trey McCay (.356) has picked it up. Tony Tittle (.281)has raised his average about 100 points and Michael Young (.305) has raised his average about 70 points.”
Griffeth attributes the team’s hot bats to a more relaxed attitude at the plate as opposed to earlier this year.
“I think we were so conscious of putting the ball into play because of last year’s team,” he said. “We had, I think, an .850 contact average last year. I think we went up there afraid to stikeout (early this year).
While contact average may be down, the power is up. The team has homered 20 times this year as opposed to seven times last year and has a .464 sluggish average compared to a .366 mark last year.
“You can strike out a few times if you have 30 RBIs,” Griffeth said.
Admission is $7 for all ages Friday’s double header against Westlake.

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