Wildcats clinch softball region with key win over Panthers
by Rob Grubbs
With the top seed in the upcoming Region 3-AAAAA tournament on the line, Starr’s Mill took a left onto Georgia Highway 85 and drove up to face Whitewater in softball action Tuesday night. Starr’s Mill brought in a region record of 8-1 to face the undefeated Wildcats. The Panthers lone region loss was an earlier contest at home against Whitewater so this was their chance for revenge, along with first place in the region standings if they could win by more than two runs.
Whitewater had four-year starter Sarah Middleton in the circle against freshman Paige Andrews with a standing room only crowd at Lady Wildcat Field.
Starr’s Mill started fast when leadoff hitter Lea Duben worked a quick walk and stole second and third, but a questionable interference call, a long deep foul ball that hit a moving car, and an infield fly closed out the first with no damage done.
The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the third. With two on and two out, Middleton scorched a double that just glanced off the third baseman’s glove into left field, scoring both runs for the 2-0 lead after three full innings.
As any good team does, Starr’s Mill responded quickly by getting two runners on in the fourth. It was Alyssa Angelo’s turn for clutch hitting with a single to left, but left fielder Bailey Vessell cut down the second runner at the plate with a perfect throw to end the fourth with Whitewater still up 2-1.
The Wildcats added single runs in the fourth and fifth to take a 4-1 lead, but, once again, Starr’s Mill fought back with a home run to deep center by Laura Sellers and Angelo driving in her second run of the game to close the gap back to one at 4-3 going to the bottom of the sixth.
Whitewater quickly declared the home half of the sixth to be theirs as they added on four more runs, the centerpiece being a triple by Lauren King, which proved to be the final margin of 8-3.
Whitewater was led by Katelyn Perry who went 4-for-4 with 2 doubles, King, who ended up 3-for-4 with 3 RBI, and Middleton who pitched a complete game and drove in the first two runs.
“Our hitting started coming on strong about two weeks ago and our confidence is growing,” said Perry.
The team is happy to win, but not yet satisfied.
“I can pitch better, and next time I will,” declared Middleton.
Middleton and Perry were both quick to acknowledge the throw by Vessell in the fourth, saying it changed the game and gave the Wildcats new energy, along with the hard work of their bench players, specifically mentioning the contributions that Becca Bailey has made as a pinch runner this season.
Whitewater coach Robert Townsend was quick to praise the Panthers, saying, “They are a great team, they hit the ball very well. You know what to expect when you play them.”
As the region tournament plays out next week, there is a very good chance these teams will face each other again soon.
“We will be ready,” said Middleton.
Whitewater tops Starr’s Mill in thrilling volleyball battle
by Christopher Dunn
The Whitewater Wildcats are asserting their volleyball dominance, piling up a 29-3 record and adding to it with wins over Starr’s Mill and Griffin Tuesday night.
The Cats got a tough test from the Panthers, edging them out 2-1 (25-15, 20-25, 25-11).
Whitewater held control throughout the first set, building a double-digit lead midway through and finishing off the Panthers late for a commanding 25-15 win.
Starr’s Mill turned the tables in the second set, surging to a 7-2 lead on a Tessa Laney kill that forced a Whitewater timeout to slow the momentum. Behind the serve of Camryn Williams, the Wildcats go on a big run, taking the lead at 10-8. The advantage would swing back-and-forth through the middle stages of a fierce set. Trailing 17-16, Alexis Berrios would serve the Panthers to a 8-0 run and a 24-17 lead. Emily Sweatman’s kill would break the run for the Cats, but Starr’s Mill soon finished them off at 25-20.
The Wildcats dominated the third set, jumping out to a 5-0 lead and building from there. Trailing 7-1, Starr’s Mill called a timeout that provided a spark as they pulled back within 9-5. Anna Marie Benson then held serve for the Cats as the lead ballooned to 20-6. The Panthers tried to claw back late, but would fall 25-11.
“I was pleased we won,” said Whitewater coach Sandi Stein, who expressed there is plenty of room for improvement. “I felt our performance was sloppy, and we got lazy. We need to tighten up our defense.”
Against Starr’s Mill, Anjelina Webb paced the attack with 11 kills, followed by Emily Sweatman with 10. Anna Marie Benson led the way with 12 digs and five assists. Camryn Williams added 10 digs, followed by Webb with eight. Megan Brubaker piled up 32 assists.
Whitewater followed that up by pounding Griffin 2-0 (25-6, 25-9).
The victories run Whitewater’s record to a sparkling 29-3, but they are less concerned with regular season marks. They have visions of a state title.
“I am happy where we are, but we can’t afford to get complacent. We have higher goals and have to keep working our opponents on a daily basis,” said Stein, who said the biggest plus for the squad is the way they play together. “The offense is so well spread that we don’t have to rely on just one person. We need to improve on blocking and shot selection.
“This is a great group of girls who enjoy one another and don’t want to let the others down,” said Stein. “That is the wheel that keeps us striving to get better. We all want the same thing.”