HIAWASSEE, GA – The Union County Middle School softball squad continued to roll Monday, Sept. 9, on the road against Towns County. The UCMS Lady Panthers brought a four-inning, 25-9 victory back to Blairsville, to push their record to 12-2 on the 2019 season.
Union County jumped out quickly to an 8-0 lead in top of the first inning and never looked back.
After the first two batters of the inning were hit by pitches, an Ila Bragg bunt led to a defensive error, allowing Georgia Patton to score the first of her three runs and give Union County a lead they never gave up.
Another hit-by-pitch and defensive error let Sierra Burnett cross the plate for the first of her two runs scored and push the lead 2-0.
Aubrie Akins then singled to left, driving in Bragg. Akins finished the night 2-for-2 with three runs scored, an RBI, a walk, and a stolen base.
Later in the inning, with the UCMS Lady Panthers leading 5-0, Patton blew the game open on the first pitch of her at-bat. With two runners on base, Patton pulled on a pitch, driving the ball into left field and scoring both runners.
The Lady Panthers led 7-0 at that point, and the route was on.
A single from Sierra Burnett drove in Patton, and Union County led 8-0 at the end of the first.
Union County continued to work the bases from there, gaining an 11-0 lead in the top of the second.
With the bases loaded, Burnett smacked a ball to left field. She ended up with an inside-the-park grand slam, and the Lady Panthers ended up with a 15-0 lead.
Burnett finished the night 2-for-2 at the plate, with five runs batted in, a grand slam, and a stolen base. Patton went 1-for-2 with three runs driven and a triple.
Ayla Stepp accounted for three RBIs and a triple, Makayla Souther finished the night with three RBIs, two runs scored, a stolen base, and a walk.
Jewell Massey also added three RBIs, while accounting for three runs scored off of three earned walks.
I’ll be the first to tell you that growing up I was never athletic. People always seem to find that hard to believe since I’m a sports reporter. But there was a time that I was really interested in trying softball.
When I was little (aka the age I should’ve started playing a sport if I wanted to be any good at it) I never really knew about or watched softball. When I got into middle school, I had a friend who played and showed me an incredible video of a softball player shattering a piece of glass from her fast-pitch. It was obvious that she was extremely strong and worked very hard to be one of the best in her sport.
I was inspired to say the least, and I almost signed up to join a church league with another friend of mine. But sadly at that point it was too late for me, and I think it was for the better anyway. Combine my age and lack of experience with my lack of athleticism and I probably would’ve been a guaranteed bench warmer.
Anyway, the point of this week’s edition of Sports talk Thursday is not to mope about my sad past with athletics, but to praise these hardworking ladies for what they do. And covering the Lumpkin County Lady Indians softball team as well as some of the other local high school teams has truly opened my eyes to what an incredible sport softball is. And while most of my experience is with Lumpkin County because I cover them on a regular basis, these are observations that I’ve made about high school teams across the board.
The first thing I love about softball is how encouraging the players are for their teammates. Unlike softball or basketball that are typically played in louder conditions, the atmosphere for softball is fairly quiet. So it’s easy for the players to make themselves heard when they’re cheering each other on, and I assume it’s also necessary in some instances to keep them going! There’s never a quiet moment at a Lumpkin County softball game, because whether it’s for the batter when they’re at the plate or the pitcher when they’re on the mound, the Lady Indians are always chanting words of encouragement. And when I’ve traveled to cover the team at other high schools, the other team is the same way. And not only do the teams encourage their own teammates, they’ll also give a shout out to players of the opposing team if they make a good play.
The athleticism of the players is another thing that blows me away about softball. I’ve seen basemen go into full- on splits to make a catch for an out, numerous running catches and a couple diving/rolling catches. On offense there have been several out-of-the-park home runs (a couple lead-offs!) and other perfectly timed triples, doubles and singles to bring the team ahead. This isn’t to say that I would expect anything less from a group of hardworking women, but it amazes me nonetheless. Possibly because there’s no way in this world I could do that stuff myself!
As a sports reporter it’s always exciting to catch that perfect moment on camera when the ball connects with the bat for a home run. Then to be able to share that moment with the player or their family makes the job so rewarding. I know as a reporter I’m not *technically* supposed to show favoritism at a game, but there have been several times I’ve had to sit on my hands to keep from cheering when there was a great hit or awesome play on defense.
Long story short- these young women work hard, you should come watch them, and I’ve enjoyed covering them.
If any of you are under the age of 18 and reading this article, then I imagine this week was probably a tough week for you. I say that because the majority of schools in the state of Georgia started back this week.
I can remember being in high school and having a knot of dread in my stomach the night before the first day of school. I’ve never been a morning person, so having to get up early was my first problem. Add in all of the homework and having to spend my days in one building…it was easy to tell I wasn’t a school person.
The good news is there was always one bright spot in all of this gloom, and that was football season. I know I’ve said it before on our sports show, Instant Replay, and probably in this column as well, but in high school I lived for football season. I never missed a game, home or away. Granted I was in the colorguard with the marching band, so most of the time I HAD to go. But I can still remember a handful of games where we weren’t required to go, and some of my friends got together and still went anyway.
Those were good times, but I dare to say that these are even better. I’m thankful to have a job that pays me to follow a sport that I love. But on the other hand, it’s a job that’s helping me to get an inside look on other sports that are sometimes forgotten, especially in the South where football is a religion.
I covered my first softball game on Tuesday. I have watched and worked softball games in the past, so in my defense I knew what to expect, but it was my first time reporting on a game. It was the Lumpkin County Lady Indians against the Pickens Dragonettes in the Lady Indians home opener. One thing I loved about this game was that it wasn’t just smooth sailing, if you will. Just to give a brief recap, the Nettes put three runs on the board first. By the fifth inning, it was looking as though the Lady Indians might lose their home opener. But as with all great teams, the Lady Indians weren’t going down without a fight and ended up coming back to win 4-3. Ironically, I went to the next game where they played each other tonight and the Nettes ended up winning 9-4.
Softball is just one of several high school sports that is played in the fall. There’s also volleyball and cross country. While I haven’t gotten the chance to go cover either of these events yet, I know that I probably will be in the near future.
I’ve never personally played volleyball competitively, but I know several people who have. And from what I do know about it, there’s more technique to setting and hitting the ball than there seems. Whenever I play for fun at the beach I just feel lucky to get it over the net. But there are certain ways to prepare before you serve the ball and where to place your feet when you’re in an official match. I don’t see how players keep up with everything, other than that they practice. I know it’s got to feel great whenever you take all of your frustration out by smacking the ball.
Now I enjoy running, but I could never run cross country. I’ve seen the joke that says “my sport is your sport’s punishment” and to be honest, that’s how I feel because I don’t know how they do it. I can remember talking to cross country runners in high school, and them telling me that they would get up at 6 a.m. to run. And for some of them, the distances they would run blew my mind. But the other incredible thing to me about cross country is how much of a mental sport it is. Not only do runners have to be trained physically to maintain a certain time, they also have to be trained physically to encourage themselves to keep going.
The point I’m trying to make is that even though I’m still learning about other sports, I respect them because I do know how hard they work. I see the social media posts, I know people that play, and I see the teams out practicing well before their season starts. And even though the summer is ending and we’re back to school, the exciting thing is we’re past the days of camps and well on our way to the actual competition. I can’t wait to see what all of these young athletes accomplish.
Union County Panthers vs Fannin County Rebels
August 29, 2017
Location: Blairsville, GA
The Lady Panthers Varsity team seems to slowly be breaking out of their beginning season slump. With a 8-3 win yesterday against the Fannin County Rebels, the Panthers are now in the #4 spot in their 7-AAA Region.
Current Region Standings: 1) East Hall 5-0, 2) North Hall 3-1, 3) Lumpkin County 3-2, 4) Union County 2-2, 5) Greater Atlanta Christian 2-3, 6) Dawson County 1-3, & 7) Fannin County 0-5.
Panthers Pitcher #21 Jillian Lawn threw 7 innings; allotting for 7 strikeouts, 1 walk, 4 hits, and 3 errors.
The Rebels were the first to cross the plate. Their leadoff batter, #8 Galloway, landed a single just over the Panther’s third baseman. After working her way around the diamond, she scored when their 4-hole hitter #4 Seabolt singled up the middle. 1-0 Rebels.
Ready to take back the lead, the Lady Panthers scored 2 runs off 3 singles in the bottom of the first. Responsible for these SNGs: #8 Katelynn Hodges, #00 Bailey Rayfield & #11 Aladriel Arnold. According the stats on MaxPreps.com Panthers Hodges is currently ranked #3 on the ‘RBI Stat Leaders’ board for the 7-AAA Region. B1: 2-1 Panthers.
Lawn shut the Rebels down in the second with a 1-2-3 inning.
Panthers with hot bats put up 1 more run in the bottom second. #27 Hannah Patton scored off an RBI SNG by #26 Maddie Sutton. Sutton is also ranked on the ‘RBI Stat Leaders’ board at #5. Other hits in the inning: #2 Miranda Lockaby (SNG) & #8 Katelyn Hodges (SNG).
B2: 3-1 Panthers.
Lady Rebels shortened the lead by a run when Rebels #7 Johnson hit an RBI single. T3: 3-2 Panthers.
A SNG by #11 Aladriel Arnold put her in position to score and that’s just what she did when #14 Mary Wischmeyer hit an RBI SNG in the bottom of the fourth. A hard DBL down the third base sideline by #26 Maddie Sutton put herself in a good position when #00 Bailey Rayfield came to the plate. Rayfield with an RBI SNG to left field allowed Sutton to score, giving the Panthers a 5-2 lead.
Panthers defense with one late throw and an error later increased the score once again. This would be the last run the Rebels would score for the game. T5: 5-3 Panthers.
In the home stretch, the Panthers were explosive with consecutive hits! #00 Rayfield started it off with a hard SNG to left-center. Next, a hard DBL by #21 Jillian Lawn, an RBI line drive SNG by #11 Arnold, a RBI SNG by #18 Aubree Pack & to end the inning a hard DBL to left-center by #14 Wischmeyer!!!
With victory in their hearts, they rushed to the outfield to wait for their end-of-game meeting and were greeted by their teammate Ellie Garrison. Garrison broke her arm last Thursday during warmups, had surgery Friday morning & was able to get her cast removed yesterday! Please continue to keep her and her family in your thoughts & prayers as we hope she makes a speedy recovery! She’s one tough cookie & a sweetheart for attending games to cheer on her teammates.
The next game is scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday, August 31, 2017 @ 5PM against Greater Atlanta Christian at Home.
Come out and support your Lady Panthers!
(Pictures taken by Jenni Dixon)
Union County vs White County Junior Varsity Softball
August 23, 2017
Location: Cleveland, GA
The Lady Panthers are still UNDEFEATED with a record of 4-0 and that is something to smile about!
(Softball) “is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.” – Yogi Berra
The Lady Warriors proved this statement to be true in yesterday’s game. With no offense to them, it seemed obvious that their pitching staff struggled to throw over the plate.
The Panthers faced three Warriors pitchers – O’Kelly, Vandiver and Anderson. Throughout the course of their 3 full innings, they had a combined total of 11 walks, 1 strikeout and 3 hits. Meaning: an average inning against these pitchers might consist 3 – 4 batters being walked, 1 getting a hit and someone seldomly getting struck out.
Opposite of that, Panthers pitcher Trinity Queen threw all 3 innings with a total of 3 walks, 6 strikeouts and 1 hit. Meaning: an average inning for Queen based on these stats will consist of 1 walk, 2 strikeouts and possibly a hit/ball in play; A.K.A. a quick inning.
With the minimal amount of time these ladies are allotted to play, they waste no time gaining an advantage over their opponent. In the top of the second inning the Panthers put up 6 runs; split evenly between walks (3) and singles (3). The Warriors never managed to score the entirety of the game. And the Lady Panthers brought home an 8-0 victory after a series of walks.
As you can see below, they also display admirable comradely between the coaching staff and each other which is another advantage this team has over others they may face.
The next JV Lady Panthers game is set for Tuesday, August 29, 2017 at 4:30 PM! Come out and support your Lady Panthers!