SPRING GARDEN – Spring Garden opened its 2017 baseball season on Saturday by hosting the Saks Wildcats and Susan Moore Bulldogs. The Panthers earned a split for the day, falling 10-4 to Saks then earning a 16-10 victory over Susan Moore.
“We didn’t play at the potential I think we could play,” Panther head coach Barrett Ragsdale said. “We had some long innings, a lot of errors, and put our pitchers in a lot of bad situations. We scored a few runs there at the end, but it was a little too late.”
Spring Garden looked strong in the early going of game one, but as Ragsdale said, costly errors in the late innings put the Panthers in a hole in which they couldn’t climb out.
Christian Crider started on the mound for the Panthers. He struck out four and surrendered six runs and three walks in his 3 1/3 innings of work.
Crider would also have the Panthers’ only RBI-hit of the game, a two-RBI double in the seventh inning that scored Ben Ivey and Dawson Broome.
Austin Slayton came on in relief for the Panthers and finished the game. He finished with five strikeouts.
Saks starting pitcher Harley Burgess shut down the Panthers by striking out six and allowing just three hits and a pair of unearned runs in his five innings of work.
Saks went on to earn another win in their next game by trouncing Susan Moore 18-3.
In the final game of the day, the Panthers ended on a high note with a win over Susan Moore.
Dawson Broome started the game for the Panthers and was dominant, exiting after four innings of work with a 7-0 lead. The Bulldogs stormed back, however, and took the lead 10-8 in the top of the sixth. However, the Panthers regained the lead in the bottom of the inning and Broome re-entered in the top of the seventh to close out the game.
The Panthers travel to Pleasant Valley on Tuesday.
CENTRE – It’s hard to imagine a high school baseball player getting off to a hotter start to the season than Cherokee County High School senior catcher Colin Brewer.
On Thursday at Collinsville, he blasted three home runs and finished with six RBIs in an 11-2 Warrior win.
On Friday in the Warriors’ home opener against the same Collinsville team, Brewer flirted with going yard, but he settled for an RBI-triple and an RBI-single in four plate appearances in Cherokee County’s 13-3 win in five innings.
“I just want to do everything I can to be part of the game. I want the game to come down to me,” Brewer said. “You work hard all off-season, and when you stay consistent with your work, you’re going to see results. Hard work beats talent any day.”
Cherokee County coach Fran Blanchard said Brewer is the Warriors’ catalyst.
“He’s gotten off to a great start,” Blanchard said. “The balls he hit, he barreled up. They made some great plays, but I thought we hit the ball from top to bottom tonight. We ran the bases well. We had another good night of defense. Really, you’re not going to find a weak spot in our order, but Brew is our catalyst, him and Jaren (Lockridge). The way they swing the bat is just special.”
As Blanchard said, Lockridge had a special night too. He led the Warriors (2-0) with a 3-for-4 plate performance, including a double and three RBIs.
It was his double and Brewer’s triple that were big parts of the eight-run, game-ending bottom of the fifth.
“They (Collinsville) were tiring, and we took advantage of it,” Lockridge said. “Their guys were throwing balls we liked, and we finally got it rolling.”
But it was Collinsville (0-2) who got things rolling early against Warrior starting pitcher Ethan Johnson. The Panthers pushed across two runs in the top of the first inning.
Leadoff batter Grant Jones reached on passed ball and Dallas Reed followed with a single to left. Jones scored the Panthers’ first run on another passed ball. Following a single to left center by Patrick Nelson, Reed scored on a fielder’s choice to put the Panthers up 2-0.
Blanchard felt the Warriors’ early two-run deficit was partly caused by jitters.
“We had so much going on (Friday), and in baseball you can lose your train of thought really quick,” he said. “Coming off facing them (Thursday) night, then coming back and opening our field, everyone’s in awe. There’s a big crowd, and I think that set the tone for our guys kind of lulling into it. It’s a grind. It finally gets here and you know how you are going on vacation. You’re so excited, you get to vacation and it goes away so quick. That’s kind of how it was with us.”
Collinsville’s lead quickly evaporated in the bottom of the first. The Warriors sent eight batters to the plate. Reed walked Colin Edwards, then back-to-back singles by Lockridge and Brewer tied the game at two. Pinch runner Zae Wright later gave the Warriors the lead at 3-2 before Panther reliever Mason McKinney retired the side.
Collinsville tied the game at three in the top of the third, but the Warriors responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth on a pair of RBI-singles by Cade Gossett and Lockridge.
After Collinsville failed to score in the top of the fifth, Cherokee County ended the game with its eight-run half inning.
Jy Lockridge got the Warrior fifth started with his double to right center with one out. He finished with a pair of hits and was hit by a pitch. Edwards, Gossett and Mason Rodgers each contributed a hit for the game. Edwards’ single brought home two runs in the fifth.
Gunnar Gable earned the win for the Warriors in relief of Johnson. Gable tossed the final two innings, giving up a walk with a strikeout.
Johnson tossed three innings, giving up all three Panther runs on just three hits with two walks and three strikeouts.
Reed led the Panthers at the plate with a pair of singles. Nelson had a single and walk.
The Warriors played long ball with Collinsville in Thursday’s season opener for both teams.
Brewer went 3-for-5 with three homers and six RBIs. Josh Decker went 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs. Caleb Ransum was 3-for-3 with a home run.
Jaren Lockridge had a pair of hits, including a double, and a RBI. Kaleb Gravett tripled. Edwards and Terry Stephens both had a hit apiece.
Decker earned the win after tossing three innings of no-hit ball. He walked two and struck out three. Edwards and Gossett relieved Decker and pitched a pair of innings apiece.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Warriors had special guest Grayson Huffman toss out the first pitch at Bobby Beckett Field on Friday to help bring awareness to Cerebral Palsy. A 5K walk/run is planned for March 18 at 6:30 p.m.
Elisha Spring Connell, 29 of Gaylesville passed away on Tuesday, February 7, 2017, at Gadsden Regional Center from a sudden illness.
She is survived by her son Saban Blaine Epps of Gaylesville, her father, Todd Connell of Anniston, Mother, Angie Connell of Gadsden, Sister Tiffany LeAnna Connell of Gaylesville, Brother Brandon Deo Connell of Centre, Grandfather Bobby R. Connell of Gaylesville, Aunts, Valerie Huffman of Cedar Bluff, Sherry Connell of Huntsville, Theresa Nicholson Green of Sand Rock & Carl Nicholson Jr. nephews Remington and Olin Hatcher of Gaylesville.
Miss Connell was a 2005 graduate of Gaylesville High School and was loved dearly by all who knew her. She will be greatly missed by her family and friends.
She is proceeded in death by her grandmother, Peggy Henderson Connell & Grandparents, Carl & Rachel Nicholson & her Uncle Roger and Aunt Diane Nicholson.
CENTRE – Karlee Perry may be an eighth-grade pitcher, but she sure didn’t show her youth in the circle Thursday against Crossville.
Perry allowed just four hits with three walks and three strikeouts in Cherokee County’s 9-0 season-opening softball victory in Centre.
“She keeps her head in the game,” Cherokee County coach Lynden Seals said. “She doesn’t get frustrated. She doesn’t show emotion. She got hit (on the foot in the seventh inning), but she kept her composure. You don’t see many eighth graders like her. We’re very blessed to have her pitch for us. She’s as good as we could ask for.”
The two things Perry did well on Thursday were shaking off any hit she gave up by going after the next batter and letting her defense play behind her.
It also helped that the Lady Warriors (1-0) provided some early offense. They scored a run in the bottom of the first on a bloop single to left by Kendal Perry with one out that brought home leadoff batter McKenley Rouss. Rouss reached on an infield single and advanced to second on a wild throw.
The Lady Warriors added four more runs in the bottom of the second, aided by three Crossville (0-1) errors. Sydney Whisenant doubled to center with one out to get the rally going. Aubrie Williams added a RBI-single to center. The rest of the Lady Warrior runs in the inning were unearned.
Cherokee County closed out the game with a four-run fifth, which was again aided by Crossville errors. The Lady Warriors scored three runs on wild pitches by Lady Lion relief pitcher Breanna Fortenberry. Williams doubled to right center for the only hit of the inning. Kallie Jolly and Kayleigh Hunter both drew walks.
“Last year, our problem was we’d get down and have to come back. This year, our goal is to get ahead, hit and not make errors,” Seals said. “They did a great job of that today. That’s what we’ve been practicing, and that’s what they did. We did have three errors, but we came out hitting. If you don’t get on top, it’s hard to win. Everybody did their jobs tonight.”
Kendal Perry, Jensen Alexander and Emily Williams each went 2-for-4 for the Lady Warriors. Alexander’s two hits were doubles.
Emma Kilgo suffered the loss for the Lady Lions after working just two innings. Jadan Dismuke led Crossville at the plate with a pair of singles and a walk. Morgan Crisson singled in the second and Hannah Haston doubled in the sixth for the other two Lady Lion hits.
“This is better than I expected, to be honest,” Seals said. “I wasn’t expecting to almost run-rule them. I’m pumped about that, and I think the girls are too. I hope that’s going to give us some momentum the rest of the season.”
The Family Care Center in the Piggly Wiggly Shopping Center in Centre includes a Thrift Store open to the public Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. The Family Care Center helps others by giving clothing, food and possibly hope to families in their time of need. The Center asks for your help by supporting its thrift stores. There are currently three locations, the one in Centre, another at 5511 Main St. in Hokes Bluff and another in Cedar Bluff. The Center is currently helping more than 100 families per week and thanks the community for its continued support. Director is Cindy McGinnis.
Celebrate Recovery, Centre, meets every Friday at 5 p.m. at the ROC. The following support groups are available: Loved Ones of the Chemically Dependent, Divorce Issues. Meal at 5 p.m., Large Group at 6:15 p.m., Small Groups at 7:30 p.m. and Grief, Domestic and Sexual Abuse, Men’s Issues, Chemical Dependency, and Emotional. Childcare is provided. For more information call (256) 393-2861 or (256) 927-5427.
Visit the beautiful Rock Village, home of some of the best hiking and rock climbing throughout the world. Enjoy fresh air and beautiful scenery. Go to the intersection of U.S. Highway, to the intersection of County Road 36 and County Road 70, turn left and follow 411 and Highway 68 in Leesburg, turn right, turn left on Cherokee County 36 the signs.
Visit the historical Cornwall Furnace on Cherokee County Road 92 in Cedar Bluff.
JACKSONVILLE – Spring Garden basketball coach Ricky Austin said he’s got a bunch of pretty girls on his team, but he also said they sure can play some hateful defense.
Just ask the Skyline Lady Vikings following Wednesday’s Class 1A Northeast Regional final.
Third-ranked Spring Garden held No. 7 Skyline to just two made field goals in the first half and seven in the entire game in a 46-25 victory.
With the exception of Skyline’s 10-point fourth quarter (most of which came when Spring Garden had pulled its starters), the Lady Panthers gave up single digits in seven quarters of regional play at Pete Mathews Coliseum. They also held Cedar Bluff to a total of 25 points in the regional semifinals last Friday.
“We pride ourselves on it,” said Austin, whose team won its 11th Northeast Regional title and advances to its third straight state tournament in Birmingham on Monday at noon against South Regional champion J.F. Shields. “I’ve tried to go against them, and it is pretty nasty. They’ll knock you around and hit you. I can only imagine what it’s like when it’s really competition time.”
So where did that pride for defense come from with this pride of Panthers (25-7)?
“They kind of stole Alabama’s football theme early in the year, being hateful,” Austin said. “I read a newspaper article to them about it. They were hunting something, and now they break it down at practice every day. They just bought into it.”
The catalysts for Wednesday’s defensive effort were guards AJ Broome and Kerstin Bryant. The duo held Skyline’s top shooters Caity Ledwell and Bailee Usry to just one made field goal.
Ledwell and Usry both finished with three points. Usry had the lone field goal with 3:24 remaining in the third quarter. Baileigh Martin led the Lady Vikings (27-5) with six points off the bench.
“(We) couldn’t score, couldn’t get a bucket,” Skyline coach Ronnie McCarver said. “They do a real good job (defensively). They put pressure on you. I didn’t know they were that physical until we got to playing against them.”
Spring Garden held a 10-7 lead at the end of the first quarter and built a 23-10 lead at halftime. The Lady Panthers led 39-15 after three quarters.
“That’s our main focus in practice. We really get after it,” Broome said of the Lady Panther ‘D’. “We get our energy from our defense. We like to make them turn the ball over and get rebounds, then go and push the ball. That’s what gives us our energy.”
Offensively, Tiyonna Rogers led Spring Garden with 11 points. She also grabbed seven rebounds in earning the tournament’s Most Valuable Player honor.
Payton McGinnis added nine points. Savannah Dempsey delivered a pair of treys and had eight points. Broome contributed seven points, six boards and five assists. Macy Reedy connected on two 3-pointers for six points. Bryant finished with five points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.
McGinnis and Dempsey, along with Skyline’s Baleigh Martin, Cedar Bluff’s Alexis Smith and Coosa Christian’s Samara Brewster, joined Rogers as all-tournament selections.
“It’s great going back (to Birmingham),” Rogers said. “We’ve all had to step it up this year, and everybody’s done great. Our defense was great, but we didn’t know we were going to play that well.”
“We’ve really started pushing ourselves to play with purpose,” Dempsey added. “At practice, we say ‘What are we here for?’ It’s to win state. It just feels great going back to Birmingham.”