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AUGUST 20, 2003


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Lady Leopards take second
Softball team finishes runner-up in weekend tourney
Before the season began, the Banks County softball team made a goal to improve over last year. The Lady Leopards have already done that.
In only five appearances so far in 2003, they’ve already matched the win total they had well into September last season.
And over the weekend the team brought home the first trophy for the softball program since 2000. The Lady Leopards finished second in a Flowery Branch tournament to earn the first ever fast-pitch trophy for the school.
“I was extremely proud of our team this weekend,” coach Kevin Gaines said. “We hit the ball extremely well against Fannin and Gilmer. We had plenty of support from our parents who braved the extremely hot sun all day long as well.”
The team took the finish after falling to Flowery Branch in the championship game.
Now, the Lady Leopards look to carry some of that momentum into their next few against formidable opponents.
“It was something positive for our program which hopefully will be influential all season long,” Gaines said.
Banks will face 2002 state runner-up GAC Thursday on the road before hosting Providence, another solid AA team, on Monday.
“They are returning their top pitcher so I am sure they will be tough,” Gaines said of the GAC squad.
BANKS 10, GILMER 6
The Lady Leopards turned around a 6-1 deficit to take a come-from-behind victory over Gilmer County to earn a berth in the championship game at the tourney Saturday.
“I was very proud that we did not give up when were losing like it seems we have done in the past,” Gaines said. “The girls battled to not be denied an opportunity to play in the championship game.”
Gilmer jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the top of the second inning off a couple of hits and two walks.
In the bottom half of the inning, Brooke Whitmire and Brittany Harris drew walks. Kayla Parks singled and Rachel Walker put down an RBI single to cut the lead to 3-1.
But in the top of the third, Gilmer County added three singles and a double to tack on three more runs and jump ahead 6-1.
In the bottom of the inning, though, Banks began to chip away at the lead. Brandi Stapp and Hope Autry drew walks while Nicole Powell reached after being hit by a pitch to load the bases. Stapp and Autry then scored as Whitmire walked.
B. Harris singled to score two more runs. K. Parks then reached on an error that scored another run.
R. Walker grounded out, allowing another run to score as the Lady Leopards took a 7-6 lead.
R. Walker went on to shut on Gilmer the remainder of the contest.
In the bottom of the fourth, Banks added two more runs. H. Autry doubled and then scored on a fielder’s choice off B. Whitmire.
Singles from B. Harris and R. Walker brought in the second run of the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, N. Powell drew a walk and then scored the final run of the game off a fielder’s choice.
FLOWERY BRANCH 8, BANKS 0
Banks was shut out 8-0 at the hands of Flowery Branch in its second game of the tournament.
The Lady Leopards committed five errors and struckout 14 times at the hands of a dominating pitcher who moved in to the school from Gwinnett County.
Gaines said the team was blown away from the over six feet tall pitcher who threw fast.
“We had some success against her at the Piedmont College camp, but she was terrific on the mound,” he said.
BANKS 11, FANNIN 1
The Lady Leopards picked up several firsts in their opening game of the Flowery Branch tournament Friday.
They got their first win of the season and the first ever fast-pitch run-ruled victory, taking Fannin 11-1 after five innings.
Freshman pitcher Gabbie Fleming had nine strikeouts in her first varsity start and allowed only one hit and one run.
“It was a great pitching performance by Gabbie Fleming and great hitting by everyone,” Gaines said. “We committed no errors and were aggressive at the plate.”
Neither team did much in the first but in the top of the second, K. Parks picked up a two out triple, followed by an Ashley Denton walk. But Banks left two stranded unable to score either one.
In the bottom of the inning, G. Fleming struck out the side.
In the top of the third, the Lady Leopards put some offense on the board.
Jessica Freeman and B. Stapp drew back-to-back walks. One out later, N. Powell also drew a walk to load the bases.
B. Whitmire followed with a fielder’s choice ground out at third that allowed one run to score. B. Harris then dropped the ball down in front of the plate to reach first and load the bases again.
K. Parks stepped up with a centerfield single on the first pitch, scoring two runs to up the score to 3-0. A wild pitch allowed B. Harris to score to take a 4-0 lead.
Fannin County added its only run in the bottom of the third after a batter was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
In the top of the fourth, Banks added five more runs to take a 9-1 lead as the Lady Leopards drew two walks and took advantage of three errors to bat around in the inning.
With the bases loaded and one run already in, N. Powell singled after hustling hard on a infield ground to score another run.
B. Whitmire grounded the third and a mental error by the thirdbaseman allowed two runs to score and go ahead 8-1. B. Harris then had a sacrafice grounder to score the ninth run of the inning.
In the top of the fifth, Banks added two more runs. After reaching on an error, B. Stapp stole second and made it to third on an obstruction call on the shortstop. She later scored on a wildpitch.
N. Powell also had a sacrafice fly in the inning to score the final run.
Fannin couldn’t score in the bottom of the inning as Banks took the win on the run rule.
EAST HALL 11, BANKS 1
The Lady Leopards fell 11-1 to East Hall in their opening game of the season last week.
Banks’ only run came in the top of the fourth. N. Powell singled. B. Harris drove her in on a single for the only run of the game.


Tigers Softball Team Hopes To Answer Questions This Weekend
The Commerce softball team ought to know a lot more about itself this weekend as it will at least have four games under its belt after this Saturday’s Oconee Tournament.
The team starts play at 9 a.m. against AAAAA Wheeler.
“It will be a lot of softball playing if the weather will let us,” Tigers head coach Donnie Drew said. “Hopefully it will.”
Commerce will be pitted against an assortment of larger schools in the nine-team event. In addition to its opener with Wheeler, the team is also slated to face AAAAA schools Pope and Oconee and AAAA Heritage.
Other teams in the tournament include Jackson County, Jefferson, Lassister and Jones County.
Each team will play four teams out of its section.
The schools with the top eight records in those four games will go on to play an extra game where each team is paired with another according to that record. The squads with the best two records will matchup followed by the third- and fourth- best teams continuing on down to the seventh seed vs. the eighth seed.
Only the ninth place team will not get an addition game with a tie-breaker system determining who’ll get the eighth and final spot should two teams end up with the same record.
The Oconee Tournament is part of trio of pre- area play tournaments Commerce’s is using to try to finalize its defensive lineup before its Sept. 23 area opener against Jefferson.
“I still haven’t made up my mind about three or four positions,” said Drew, adding that with only 14 players the options are limited.”
The coach said that the team will get an idea of how it should stack up against its competition this fall after this weekend.
“We ought to have some idea over whether or not we’ll be competitive at all this year,” Drew explained. “I’m not thrilled to see all those AAAAA schools but they can only put 10 on a field at one time. Hopefully they don’t put 10 than can handle the ball all over the field.”


Madison County football program to return to region play next season
Madison County’s four-year stint in non-region football will end with this season, according to Raider head coach and athletic director Tom Hybl.
Hybl confirmed in an interview this past Friday that Madison County, which has played non-region football since 2000, is set to return to region schedule format next year in a realigned 8-AAAA which will include 12 other teams — Cedar Shoals, Clarke Central, Habersham Central, Jackson County, Lakeside (Evans), Evans, Greenbrier, Heritage, Salem, Rockdale County, Eastside and Loganville.
Hybl said the move was made official this summer when he informed 8-AAAA representatives of the school’s intentions at a region meeting but added that the actual decision was made this past spring.
Re-entering region play will now make the football program eligible for the state playoffs if it were to finish as one of the top four teams in 8-AAAA. Madison County was, of course, ineligible under a non-region format.
“The concept of getting to play in the state playoffs is always great,” Hybl said.
However, Hybl pointed out that Madison County actually achieving that feat in the future could be difficult depending on how the region is split up. With each subregion sending two teams to the state playoffs, Madison County might face a tough situation if they were to be put in the same subregion as say, traditional powers like Cedar Shoals and Clarke Central.
Madison County athletic teams are grouped in the same subregion with those two schools in 8-AAAA’s current set up.
Futhermore, the Raider football program’s participation numbers are still a problem according to Hybl.
“We don’t feel that with our depth situation that we can compete week in and week out with AAAA football folks,” he said. “Until we can get our numbers up, it’s going to be a tough road for us.”
Madison County moved to a non-region schedule in Hybl’s third year as head coach after the Raiders went 2-8 in 1999 in 8-AAA.
Madison County enjoyed a 10-0 record outside region play in 2000, followed by an 8-2 campaign in 2001. The school moved up to AAAA in 2002 but the Raiders opted to stay out of region play and upgrade their non-region slate of opponents, going 5-5 this past season against a schedule that included Buford, Grayson, Commerce and Athens Academy.


Lady Panthers drop second-straight in home opener
The 2003 season has not begun the way the JCCHS fast-pitch team had hoped it would. Tuesday the team dropped their second-straight one-run game in a week after a tough loss on the road on Aug. 12.
But, this time the defeat came in their home-opener, a fact that was an eye-opening result for a squad whose goals this season included winning every game played in the friendly confines of Lamar Murphy Park for the second consecutive season.
However, an odd run scored by Rockdale County in the fourth inning of Tuesday’s contest quickly dispelled any notions of an unblemished home record this year and with it brought the Jackson County contingent back down to earth a little bit, according to their head coach Mark Mahoney.
“We’re just flat right now,” Mahoney said following the 1-0 defeat. “With all of the expectations we’ve put on ourselves and that the (community) has put on us we just think that we can just walk out there and say, ‘we’re Jackson County,’ and that’s just not going to get it done,” Mahoney explained.
Following the team’s first-game defeat at Franklin County, Mahoney stated that he thought his squad would respond Tuesday with a “wake-up call” type effort. But what transpired against the Lady Bulldogs was anything but that, he said.
“It was just an emotionless ball game for us,” Mahoney stated.
Pitcher Brandi Townsend was solid on the mound for the Lady Panthers despite picking up the loss in the effort. She allowed just four hits all day.
Trouble for Townsend’s team was that they could only muster three hits of their own.
In the fourth inning, Rockdale’s Frankie Farmer was able to sneak home after a throw to second by JCCHS catcher Krista Bess. With the double-steal apparently on for Farmer in the first-and-third situation, she was safe at home before the ball made it back to Bess in time to tag her.
Later this week the Lady Panthers will take part in a multi-team tournament at Buford where they will have a chance to redeem themselves by reaching another of their goals — winning the event.
But that said, the Friday and Saturday affair will likely be more important for the team’s mental outlook on the season than anything and at this early stage of the year it appears the Lady Panthers are desperately in need of some confidence.


Uncertain futures
2003 to be the final season for JHS head coach, possibly teamFor those associated with the Jefferson softball program the 2003 season will forever be etched in their memory regardless of its final outcome.
Sure, many of the teams from years past are recognized and appreciated for their accomplishments and feats, but this year’s squad will stand out in the history books for more than just those. For head coach DeMaris Gurley the year will have somewhat of a bittersweet feeling as she has announced that she will retire from coaching at the end of the season. With her departure and the strong likelihood that the slow-pitch program may be soon be eliminated, the upcoming year will likely have a swan song feel to it.
Next year the Lady Dragons will more than likely join the ranks of “fast-pitch” softball, an avenue they hope to duplicate their slow-pitch success in. As schools participating in slow-pitch in the Georgia High School Association have gradually dwindled in recent years, the number of teams still competing in the sport are at an all-time low.
Many have shifted gears in recent years and opted to join the increasingly popular game of fast-pitch (very similar to slow-pitch with the exception of one less outfielder and a pitcher that throws the ball underhand with a hard motion that sends the ball to the plate at a much higher velocity, hence the name fast-pitch).
Because of the transition, many schools are not able to field both types of teams and in the case of smaller Class A schools, like Jefferson, the task is nearly impossible. Logically then, it only makes sense for more and more schools to make the transition.
And so, when the 2003 Lady Dragons take the field this Saturday to open up their season at the annual play day tournament at Oconee County, they will probably have already made history. But their goal is to do more than just be the last team in school history. They want to be remembered for a state championship if its their program’s last hoorah.
With a solid nucleus returning from last season’s state Final Four squad in Columbus the Lady Dragons will field seven returning starters this year.
Leading the way for the squad will be seniors Taryn Gurley, Kenyotta Beasely, and Allison Veldhuis, the squad’s primary leaders.
Gurley enters 2003 primed to take over the left field position vacated by Sunny Bush, who graduated last year. Gurley led the squad in batting last season, hitting .582 while playing second base. She is on track to finish as one of the school’s best ever career hitters, currently sitting at fifth all-time in batting.
Beasley, the team’s catcher last year will move to first base this season where she will be called on to help replace the power hitting lost by last year’s senior first baseman Annie Goza.
“These two players (Gurley and Beasely) were both starters on our 2000 state championship team and they have had a three-year record of 84-12,” DeMaris Gurley proudly boasts. Clearly, in 2003 they will be a major part of what is predicted to once again be a state tournament contending club.
Last year’s 23-6 squad accomplished much by most teams’ standards, winning their annual Booster Club Tournament, claiming the Area 4 championship (made up of Class A, AA, and AAA teams), and reaching the final four at the state tournament. However, by Jefferson’s lofty standards it was simply another typical season.
During the course of Gurley’s time as the head coach at JHS she has amassed an impressive 292-114 career record, including the program’s only state championship in 2000.
Bush and Goza are now gone, as are last season’s other senior starters, Michelle Boring (left center field) and Molly Cleveland (right center field), which means this year’s squad will have to meet the challenges of not only replacing the talent on the field that those players possessed, but also their savvy and leadership in the dugout.
But, according to Gurley, there should be no shortage of players willing to fill those voids on this year’s squad.
“They are a very coachable team,” Gurley explained. “And they are united, one unit supported by each other and I feel like they are determined with goals in mind.”
Should that be the case things look promising in this, the final time the Lady Dragon slow-pitch program will take the field together.

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