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Claxton, Jenkins County split 3-A title

    BROOKLET — Trailing the Claxton boys by 10 points heading into the 1600-meter relay — the final event of the 2008 Region 3-A championship held at Southeast Bulloch’s track Wednesday and Friday — the Jenkins County Eagles needed a miracle.
    Though short-handed, both JCHS relay teams led the entire way. Claxton was right on their heels in third and fourth place throughout the first three legs, and had the relay ended like that, the Tigers still would have won the region title outright with a two-point advantage.
    In the fourth leg, the Eagles got what they were looking for.
Coming from the middle of the pack, Portal’s Justin Raymond passed Claxton’s No. 2 relay team giving the Panthers a fourth-place finish, and — more importantly for the Eagles — forced Claxton into third and fifth for the race.
    “Those Panthers,” said Jenkins County boys coach Charlie Waters, “they came in and got fourth place. That really helped, because we lost two guys on Wednesday (at the field events).”
    Claxton and Jenkins County each finished the meet with 167 points and split the 2008 Region 3-A Championship. Portal came in third with 83 points.
    It was only fitting for the Eagles that they grabbed the title with the top two finishes in the long relay.
    “We’ve stressed the four by 400 every year for seven years. That’s all we did,” said Waters. “That’s our race. The four by 100 — we like it.  It’s fun. That’s the show-horse race, but I always tell our guys, ‘The four by four, that’s where you can win — that’s a man’s race.’ They showed up. We had two alternates running on the first team. They stepped in and did great.”
    The Claxton Lady Tigers won the region titles for the girls in much less dramatic fashion. Their 144.5 points put them well ahead of Calvary (117) and Jenkins County (86).
    “I told the girls all year long that we could win region with thirds and fourths,” said Claxton coach Joy Daughtry. “That’s basically what we did. We didn’t win that many events, but everybody contributed, and we needed everybody.”
    Daughtry sited the team’s work ethic as the number one reason for its success.
    “In Claxton,” said Daughtry, “we just basically run around the campus, in the streets and on the dirt tracks. The kids have to adapt and they did a good job.”
    Claxton’s Lacreasha Brewton fought for girls high point throughout the two-day championship but was edged out in the 1600m relay by Lady Eagle Ayana Walker. Walker — who finished the meet with 31.5 points — beat out Brewton by half of a point. Her performance makes the Lady Eagles look down the road with confidence.
    “It’s tremendous, because she’s only a freshman and I think her potential hasn’t been reached yet,” said Jenkins girls coach Chuck Sanders. “I only have one senior, and the rest of my team is freshmen and sophomores, so the future looks bright.”
    Walker took home the gold in the 300m hurdles and the 100m, the silver in the 400m relay and the long jump and bronze in the 1600m relay — but she was shocked to win high point.
    “It’s a blessing from God,” said Walker. “I didn’t even know it was happening until everybody kept saying, ‘Ayana, Ayana, come get your award.’ A couple of people mentioned it (throughout the day), but it was in the back of my mind. I just wanted to win.”
    Taking home the high-point trophy for the boys was Patrick Moody, another Eagle. There was no surprise there.
    “This is his senior year,” Waters said. “He’s been doing it for four years now. He was a freshman that was on the four by 100 team that set the state record. The only problem is getting him to the race — just getting him there. He’s late to everything.”
    Late to everything, maybe, except for the finish line.
    Moody won the 100m, the 400m relay and the 1600m relay.
    The Eagles qualified for the state championship in all nine track events, plus discus and triple jump. The girls qualified in seven events.
    Claxton will send competitors to state in seven boys events and the girls will compete in eight.
    With his long jump and high jump gold medals, Raymond will join five other Portal Panthers in at the state meet.

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.

By RAHN HUTCHESON
Special to the Herald

    A brilliant pitchers’ duel spiraled out of control late in the game as Trinity Christian School beat Bulloch Academy 6-0 in a pivotal GISA Region 2-AA baseball match-up at Gator Alley Friday.
    Bulloch freshman Walker Blitch and Trinity junior Austin Frost turned in masterful performances in a quick and efficient contest which lasted just 1:39. Their contrasting styles baffled hitters during the majority of the afternoon. The contest had no score through four innings until Trinity pushed a run across in the fifth.
    “How about that Walker Blitch?,” said BA head coach Daryl Evans. “I don’t think he could throw the ball against a pane of glass and break it. It might vibrate some though. The good thing is that he’s just a freshman so we get to watch him frustrate batters for three more years. The bad thing is that Frost is a junior, so we get to see him again next season.”
    Frost struck out 12 Gators with a good fast ball and a tricky curve ball en route to improving his mark to 5-0 and helping the Crusaders to all but secure the top seed in the region. The victory put the Crusaders at 10-3 overall and 5-1 in region play, with their only region loss being at the hands of the Gators earlier in the season. The loss dropped Bulloch to 9-5 overall and 2-3 in the region.
    Bulloch touched Frost for seven hits in the game but the Gators couldn’t put them together to push a run across. Sophomore Matthew Sapp went 3-for-4 to lead the BA offense.
    The Gators had their chances but the offense stalled at inopportune times.
    In the bottom of the first, Sapp led off the game with a single to left and went to third on a Burke double.
    “We came out of the gate with a single and a double and I thought, ‘We’re good to go,’” said Evans.
    But back-to-back Ks and a pop-fly to the shortstop ended the inning.
    “You’re not going to win a lot of games striking out,” he said. “You have to have a positive at-bat.”
    Bulloch had other early chances.
 In the second, senior Drew Cheshire pounded a one-out double, but couldn’t be plated. In the fourth, designated hitter Matt Simons reached on an error and shortstop Win Lee singled. But the following three batters fell victim to Frost’s fast ball.
    The Gator defense held the Crusaders at bay. Right fielder Clay Anderson got plenty of work early as did center fielder Burke, who robbed James Hobbs in the fourth and made a diving catch in the fifth.
    But it was in that inning where the tide began to turn.
    TCS leadoff batter Eric Shepherd singled over Lee and then stole second. Tim Stuckey then sent Blitch’s 2-2 pitch over the outstretched glove of second baseman Cheshire to plate Shepherd and draw first blood.
    In the bottom of the inning, Burke reached on a fielder’s choice and advanced to second on junior Michael DeLoach’s single to left. Both moved up a base on a passed ball. But, with two outs, Simons’ blast  to deep right center was snagged for the third out.
    Simons came on to pitch in the fifth and gave up two walks and a run-scoring double to J.P. Mitchell. He was relieved in favor of freshman Davis Howell. TCS’s Chris Hobbs ripped a bullet down the left-field line, scoring Mitchell and James Hobbs for a 4-0 lead.
    In the seventh, the Crusaders took advantage of three Gator errors to plate two insurance runs for a 6-0 lead.
    In the bottom of the frame, Sapp gave the home fans a little hope when he legged out an infield single with one out. But a pop-up and another strikeout ended the game.
    Bulloch hosts region foe Edmund Burke in a key match-up Tuesday which will help finalize the region standings. The date is also the Gators’ final regular-season home game. First pitch is slated for 4 p.m.

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