Area Sports...

JULY 9, 2003


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Vote set next week on GAC, Wesleyan, Providence appeal
Though a recent reclassification plan finally saw the removal of private schools from Region 8-AA, that plan might not stick.
The Georgia High School Association Reclassification Committee will vote Wednesday on whether or not to grant appeals from several schools about their new region assignments.
Three of those schools are now in Region 8-AA but have been moved to 5-AA for the 2004-06 sports seasons. Those three, all private schools, have appealed.
Greater Atlanta Christian, Wesleyan Christian and Providence Christian, all based in metro Atlanta, have asked that they not be placed in the metro-Atlanta Region 5-AA but instead be left in the northeast Georgia Region 8-AA.
Under the current plan, 5-AA will have 13 schools and 8-AA will have seven. But should the reclassification committee grant the three private schools’ appeal, both regions might even up at 10 schools.
“I wouldn’t mind it if I felt like they were playing with the same deck of cards we’re playing with,” Banks County co-athletic director Mike Ruth said. “But I think they’re playing with a stacked deck.”
The current battle is just the most recent in an ongoing debate within the state regarding the fairness of allowing private schools to compete with public schools.
Some officials in Region 8-AA, primarily a mountain region, contend that competition from private schools just isn’t equal.
“I have no problem with the people from any of those schools,” Ruth said. “They are fine people. But we’re looking to just be able to compete with teams in the same situation as we are.
“Our drawing base is from inside the community. We draw from kids that grow up in the area and in the school system. The private schools can draw from anywhere in metro Atlanta. Their service area is not limited like ours to just one county.”
The current reclassification plan puts Banks, Buford, Dawson, Lumpkin, Rabun and Union in 8-AA.
In addition, East Hall will also drop down from AAA into the region, making seven teams.
Oglethorpe County also has an appeal on the table to move out of Region 7-AA and into Banks’ region. The Leopards have faced the school, a public school just south of Athens, in several sports in recent years.
“I have no problems with Oglethorpe County,” Ruth said. “It’s a public school and in basically the same situation we are.”
Ruth said he believes all of Banks’ sports will benefit from region competition among public schools only.
“I feel like we’ll be able to compete better overall in a mountain region in every sport,” he said. “The kids in each of these communities are basically the same. And all the communities are very similar.”
The reclassification committee will make the appeal decision Wednesday before the GHSA executive committee approves the plan for final in October.
PRIVATE SCHOOLS RULE
Competing against private schools has been nothing new for Banks County.
Local athletes have been stuck with them for the past several years in both AA and A competition.
But examination of results at the end of region play in the past year shows a clear dominance by private schools.
In baseball, half of the schools from the region that went on to state tournament play were private schools, though private schools make up only 30 percent of the region.
In boys basketball, one of the schools that made the state trip was private, while in girls basketball, two of the four were private schools.
The three private schools swept the first, second and third spot in the region in both the boys and girls cross country meets. Wesleyan went on to win the state title in both.
In football, two of the region’s top four teams last team were private schools.
The three private schools all made it to the state tournament in both boys and girls tennis. Only one other school (Rabun in boys and Buford in girls) made it to state out of the region.
In fast pitch, GAC, Wesleyan and Providence all made it to the softball sectionals. Lumpkin represented the region as well as the only non-private school.
As for state track, of those that finished at the top at that meet, only one individual from a non-private school took first in any event in boys or girls. The private schools had three.
In wrestling, the only two individuals to win a state title were both from a public school, Apalachee.
It is notable that in golf, Banks County did defeat GAC in a playoff hole at the region tournament. That was the only sport in which Banks finished a season ahead of a private school in 8-AA the whole year.


A Title Run?
It’s been a perfect all-star season so far for the Commerce 14-and-under all-stars and if they keep that streak intact this week, they’ll be calling themselves state champions.
What the all-star team hopes is an lengthy state tournament run was scheduled to start tonight (Wednesday) in Adel at 7:30 p.m. against the champions out of District 5 (Bremen most likely). The state tournament will run through Saturday.
Commerce qualified for state by sweeping through the District Seven tournament last week in Cleveland with a 3-0 mark, downing Lumpkin County 15-5, outlasting White County 12-11 and then topping them 11-7 in a rematch to take the tournament championship.
When asked on Tuesday how he thought the team would stack up this week, head coach Johnny Briscoe said he believed the team had the intangibles to be just as successful at state as they were at district.
“I think we’ve got a really good chance,” he said. “We’ve got a good-hitting ball club. We’ve got a lot of pitching. I think we’ve got a really good shot at it.”
Assistant coach Murray Brett had a similar assessment.
“I think they have a good chance,” he said Monday. “This is one of the best teams we’ve had in a long time and I’ve been coaching for six years. The hitting is outstanding. The pitching is good and the pitching is deep.”
The 14-and-under team certainly brought its bats to the district tournament, scoring 38 runs in winning three games.
Briscoe pointed out that the team hit the ball up and down the lineup in Cleveland, compiling a .450 team batting average.
“When you do that, you’re going to win a lot of ball games,” he said.
What kind of opposing pitching the team would encounter at state would be a wild card Brett explained, but if the team keeps hitting the ball like it did during the district tournament, he thinks big things will be in store for the group.
“In 13-and-14 year-old baseball, you don’t know what you’ll run up against,” Brett said. “You might run up against an ace pitcher who blows you away. But we’ve hit well in our three games and I anticipate that that will continue ... If we can limit our errors in the field, then I think there’s a good chance that this team could go all the way.”
In addition to production at the plate, the team has had some impressive mound performances.
Commerce got two strong starts from Andy Briscoe, who picked up wins against Lumpkin County and White County in the championship, and a five-inning relief appearance from Taylor Streetman who earned the win in the first game against White County.
Briscoe pointed to that seesaw 12-11 win over White as the pivotal victory in the tournament.
“I think they showed a lot of character being down four runs and coming back,” he said. “We played some defense in the end. That was definitely the key of the tournament.”
A RETURN TRIP TO STATE
For some members of the team this is the second year in a row that they’ll play against the state’s best. Four members of the team were on last year’s 12-and-under all-stars that finished fifth in the state.
“On any level of play, when you’ve got guys that have faced opposing teams that are equally as good, it always helps,” Brett said.
THE TOURNAMENT
Eight teams will vie for the state title this week in Adel, the seven district winners and tournament host Cooke County.
Briscoe pointed out that the double elimination tournament isn’t kind on those in the losers’ bracket.
“If we win those first couple games, you’re in the drivers’ seat,” he explained. “But if you lose they’ve got it where you’re playing double headers. Hopefully, we’ll win our first couple of games.”


Local teams prep for state
A host of local all star teams will take to the diamond in the coming days for state tournament play. The first team in action will be the 13-and-14 year-old baseball team from Jackson County. The squad will travel to Loganville today for a meeting with the home team from Walton County.
In other baseball action, state tournament play begins for the 11-and12 year-old Jackson County squad on July 16 in Carrollton, Ga.
Likewise the 9-and-10 year-old squad from Jefferson will take part in state beginning July 16 in Loganville.

Local fast-pitch squads in state
Much like their male counterparts, the girls in Jackson County will take to the field for state play as well in the coming days.
The lone Jefferson squad to advance to the state tournament is in the 9-and-10 year-old ranks. They begin play July 17 in Dublin, Ga.
Two Jackson County squads are also taking part in state tournaments beginning next week. The 9-and-10 year-olds will battle the District 4 champions on July 17 in Carrollton.
In the 11-and-12 year-old tournament, which takes place in Vidalia, Ga. also on July 17, Jackson County will face off against the District 5 champions.

JCPRD adult league
tournament this week
After a regular season during which the team sponsored by Mike’s Grill came away with a district tournament-clinching first-place finish, the Jackson County Parks and Recreation Department’s adult league tournament begins today at Lamar Murphy Park.
The winner of the tournament clinches the second of two spots in the District 7 tournament which will be held on July 21 at Lanier Point in Gainesville.
Play will continue through Tuesday night’s championship game at the Jefferson complex.


9- and 10-year-old softball all-stars advance to state
Note: The 11- and 12-year-old National League all-stars were in the semifinals of their district tournament as of press time.
With his team scoring a combined 70 runs over four games in sweeping the District 7 tournament this past week, 9- and- 10-year-old softball all-star coach Tony Croya doesn’t see a reason why his squad would slow down anytime soon.
Croya is confident that the group can pull an encore in the state tournament this week after seeing the way it breezed through the competition at district.
“We’re going to take the state,” said Croya, whose team will start play Saturday at 2 p.m. “We told the girls if they listened to us on the field and did what we told them, they would win the district and they won it in four games.”
The 9- and 10-year-old softball all-stars won’t have to go far in moving on to the state tournament as they’ll host the event at the Madison County rec. dept. in Danielsville.
Croya said his team will likely play Oconee County, Elbert County and Greene County in its first three games.
The 9- and 10-year-old girls squad became the first Madison County Recreation Department softball team from that age group to win a district title with their domination of the field of teams this past week.
Madison County’s opening win foreshadowed the rest of the tournament as they walloped Franklin County by 21 runs, 23-2, last Saturday.
The team followed the route with its most narrow victory in district play, still an 8-3 win over Habersham County nonetheless, before trouncing Toccoa 14-4 Wednesday and then turning around and stomping them 25-5 Saturday to take the district crown.
Madison County averaged 17.5 runs a contest in the four-game sweep.
However, Croya said it’s the defense that is the backbone of the team.
“The defense is the best I’ve seen,” he said. “The offense is medium to above average. That’s the main thing we’ve been working on — our offense.”
Croya explained the pitching staff goes five deep and that his team’s defense is armed with a host of multi-talented players who can field any number of positions.
In particular, the coach pointed to Olivia Duncan, who primarily plays pitcher and catcher; Katie Wages, who pitches, catches and plays center field; Brandi Osborne, who pitches and plays second; Keeley Carey, who plays short; Hannah Fleming, who pitches and plays first; and Tara Dove, who plays third.
“And all the outfielders have done a great job,” Croya added.
11- AND 12-YEAR-OLD NATIONAL
As of press time Tuesday night, the Madison County National League 11- and 12-year-old all-stars had advanced to the semifinals of the District 7 tournament where they were to meet Habersham County National in Toccoa.
Results of that game weren’t available.
Madison County reached the semifinals by winning their pool with four straight victories after losing its opener.
The squad lost the first game of the District 7 South pool play against Madison County American, 5-3.
However, the Madison National team bounced back with wins over Hart National, 5-1; Hart American, 15-3 in four innings; Franklin National, 22-0 in four innings; and Franklin American, 15-3 in five innings.
Madison County National has some impressive hitting statistics, with a total of 11 home runs by five different batters. Two homers have been grand slams.
“The team is also blessed with an abundance of quality pitching, using four different hurlers in the series,” coaches said, adding that “Perhaps the greatest attribute that the team enjoys is team unity. Each player on the team has a nickname and a desire to see their teammates succeed.”
9- AND 10-YEAR-OLD NATIONAL
The 9- and 10-year-old National League all-stars topped Hart County National 6-2 Saturday to take the District Seven South Pool title.
However, the team fell to Toccoa National 9-3 two days later in the district semifinals, ending its all star season.
The team fell 2-1 to Madison County American to start district play but stormed back with wins over Franklin National, 7-5; Hart American 10-8; and Franklin American 18-7 before its win over Hart County National.
9- AND 10-YEAR-OLD AMERICAN
The 9- and 10-year-old American League all-stars went 3-2 in pool play opening with a 2-1 win over their Madison County National League counterparts, falling 7-6 to Hart County National, topping Franklin National 5-3, losing to Hart American 3-2 and beating Franklin American 4-2.
11- AND 12-YEAR-OLD AMERICAN
The Madison County American Major League squad took third place in the District 7 All-Star tournament in Hartwell.
The team played five games, facing Hart County, Franklin County and the Madison County National League squad. Team members included Spencer Baird, Preston Booth, Ian Drake, Daniel Eubanks, Sean Fernandez, Eddie Gilbert, Matthew Papp, Jayson Pridgen, Christopher Savage, Ethan Seagraves, Bryan Simmons and Ben Smith. Coaches were Robert Baird, Andy Eubanks, Jay Pridgen and David Smith.
In the opening game of the tournament, Madison American defeated Madison National 5-3, with stellar defense and a strong pitching performance by Daniel Eubanks, who struck out five, while allowing just four hits. Defensive support came from Sean Fernandez at second base, Ethan Seagraves at third, Christopher Savage in center field and Ben Smith in left field. Madison American was down 3-2 going into the sixth inning, but rallied to score three runs en route to the win.
Madison American was defeated 6-5 in the second game. Ethan Seagraves had a strong pitching performance with nine strikeouts. Offensively, Eddie Gilbert was 2-for-2; Sean Fernandez, 2-for-3; Bryan Simmons, 1-for-1; and Ben Smith, 1-for-2.
Madison American lost its next game 13-11 to Franklin National in seven innings. Entering the sixth, Madison American trailed by two runs. Sean Fernandez, Ian Drake and Bryan Simmons each hit a double, helping the team tie the game at 11. In the bottom of the sixth, Franklin National loaded the bases with no outs. But the Madison American defense rose to the occasion, recording three consecutive outs and forcing Franklin into the seventh inning. Madison was unable to score in the top of the inning and Franklin ended the game with a walk-off, two-run homer. Matthew Papp was 2-for-3; Sean Fernandez; 4-for-4; Ian Drake, 2-for-3; Bryan Simmons, 2-for-4. Daniel Eubanks also homered.
Madison American defeated Hart National in the next game behind a top-notch pitching performance from Ethan Seagraves, who had 12 strikeouts and one walk. Spencer Biard was 2-for-2; Ian Drake, 2-for-3; Preston Booth, 2-for-2; Ethan Seagraves, 3-for-3; and Jayson Pridgen, 1-for-2.
In the last game of the tournament, Madison American defeated Hart American 4-3. Daniel Eubanks had seven strikeouts and no walks. Shortstop Matthew Papp, third baseman Ethan Seagraves and first baseman Ian Drake led the team defensively. Offensively, Spencer Baird was 3-for-3 with two runs scored. Other hitters were Sean Fernandez, 1-for-2; Ethan Seagraves, 2-for-3; and Eddie Gilbert, 1-for-1 with the game-winning RBI.
“Every game Madison American played in the tournament was filled with excitement,” said coaches. “Each player played with determination and teamwork. The Madison American team also received many compliments from the opposing county’s coaches and parents as to having good sportsmanship and representing our county with class. Thanks for all of the support Madison American received from their family and friends throughout the tournament and thanks to the Madison American team for all your hard work.”
JUNIOR LEAGUE AMERICAN
The Junior League American all-stars season ended their season in the final round of the losers’ bracket in a 13-4 loss to Toccoa Saturday.
The team opened district play with an 8-6 win over the same Toccoa team, followed by a 5-4 extra inning win over Madison County National.
However, the team was sent to the losers’ bracket in a 10-0 loss to Habersham County before bowing out against Toccoa.
JUNIOR LEAGUE NATIONAL
The Junior League National squad earned a split in its first two tournament games with a win over Rabun County 9-2 and a loss to Madison County American 5-4.
In the losers’ bracket, the National League team beat Hart County American 11-9 before being ousted by Toccoa 14-0.
SENIOR LEAGUE
A 19-2 outburst against Rabun County by the Senior League all-stars was sandwhiched between a 9-7 loss to Hart County in the opener and a 14-13 loss to Toccoa.
11- AND 12-YEAR-OLD SOFTBALL
The 11- and 12-year-old softball all-stars lost 3-2 to Hart County to start their tournament before rebounding with a 17-7 stomping of Rabun County. Their season ended however, with a 1-0 loss to Toccoa and a 9-3 loss to Habersham County.
JUNIOR LEAGUE SOFTBALL
The Junior League softball all-stars topped Rabun County 10-8 lat Saturday but were ousted from tournament play five days later in a 13-3 loss to Franklin County.


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