Area notebook: storms hold up playoff baseball

For The Sun NewsApril 29, 2013 

Heavy rains along the Grand Strand and throughout the state postponed several baseball and softball playoff games Monday.

But a handful of area softball programs previously earned an extra off day and didn’t have to worry about the weather. Carolina Forest, Waccamaw and Green Sea-Floyds had already locked up appearances in their respective district. By way of winning their first two postseason games, the Panthers, Warriors and Trojans will also play those games at home on Wednesday.

Each of those three teams will have two opportunities to win one game and thus advance to the Lower State tournaments. It’s not necessarily a surprise, though, that Waccamaw and Green Sea-Floyds got to this point even though they were not top seeds for the playoffs. Scott Streiffert’s Waccamaw team was ranked No. 5 in Class AA and nearly won the Region VIII-AA title before falling to Dillon in the region title playoff, and Doug Hinson’s Green Sea-Floyds squad – which eventually finished third in Region VIII-A, was ranked in the state’s top 10 until the final regular-season poll was released last week.

All the Trojans did in their first two playoff games was beat Carvers Bay and Cross by a combined score of 33-4. It’s a product of another year in one of the state’s most productive softball regions.

“It’s better to win our region than it is to win our district,” Trojans coach Doug Hinson said. “If you win our region, you’ve done something. Three of the possible teams in the Lower State are coming from our region.”

Green Sea-Floyds will have those two chances to beat the winner of Monday’s scheduled Carvers Bay-Cross game on Wednesday. With a victory, the Trojans will be heading to their fourth overall and second straight Class A Lower State tournament. Like Hinson said, odds are that Green Sea-Floyds won’t be the only team from Region VIII-A in that next stage of the state playoffs.

Fellow region squads Latta and Johnsonville will also play host to their respective district title games Wednesday. But it was so close to being different teams involved in the playoffs. Lake View, the team that was left out of the postseason, would have forced a five-way tiebreaker in Region VIII-A had it won its last regular-season game. Instead, the team ranked No. 8 in Class A in the final regular-season poll watched its season end with a winning record and that lofty state ranking.

That is almost as impressive as the fact that three of the four teams in the Class A Lower State tournament could come from this region for the second consecutive season.

Waccamaw, meanwhile, will face the winner of Loris-Andrews for a chance to move on. The Warriors (24-5) also played some stiff competition this season. Those five losses came to eventual region champion Dillon (twice), Class AAA squad Georgetown and Class AAAA opponents Summerville and Wando.

Wando is also responsible for one of Carolina Forest’s two losses this year. The Panthers (24-2) will have either Stratford or Bluffton at home on Wednesday.

On campus with Ashley Czechner

One of former Waccamaw star softball pitcher Ashley Czechner’s greatest attributes during her high-school days was her affinity for big-game situations.

Despite moving around on the college level some, she’s still got it.

Czechner, now a junior at LSU, has started the season 10-0 for the Tigers, including last week’s complete game victory over defending national champion Alabama. It’s been another fantastic showing for the 5-foot-10 right-hander after making impressions at the University of Maryland and then Chattanooga State Community College.

“A goal of mine was to be undefeated, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen or not,” Czechner said by phone last week. “I think being a staff with [fellow pitchers Rachele Fico and Meghan Patterson], we just push each other. If one of us is having a bad day, we feed off each other.”

Czechner and Patterson have developed into the Tigers’ second and third options behind Fico, and the system is working out for everyone involved. LSU is ranked No. 12 in the country, one of nine SEC programs ranked in the most-recent ESPN.com/USA Today NCAA poll. The Tigers will likely get a major boost in the rankings, courtesy of that sweep over Alabama.

The Sun News’ 2010 Toast of the Coast Player of the Year getting into that mix wasn’t a quick transition, though.

Czechner signed with Maryland out of Waccamaw. With the Terrapins as a true freshman in 2011, she was 12-3 with a 1.74 ERA. She was projected to be the team’s No. 1 pitcher as a sophomore.

However, she decided Maryland was “not a very good fit,” and elected to transfer. Without a full release from the school, and not wanting to sit out a year, she elected to attend Chattanooga State.

There, her individual accomplishments again took center stage. She was 37-4 with a 0.72 ERA and 370 strikeouts during the 2012 season. Czechner led that team to the NJCAA national title and was later named the NJCAA Pitcher of the Year and earned All-America honors.

Even before much of that happened, though, she was again getting plenty of interest from some of the college softball’s top programs, including several in the SEC.

“As soon as LSU came, I jumped on her [coach Beth Torina’s] offer right away,” Czechner said. “I committed soon after my visit.

“It was definitely an adjustment. It was me getting back to the NCAA and getting back to a big school. You have a tougher school schedule. But I definitely made the adjustment.”

Despite the multiple transfers, Czechner is still on pace to graduate in four-and-a-half years with a degree in biology and is planning on post-graduate work in dental school after that. That was her original plan when she graduated from Waccamaw, and she’s kept with it – much like her winning ways on the field.

NFL signing

Former Conway Tiger Jonathon Sharpe will get his chance in the NFL.

Sharpe, who graduated from Conway in 2007, signed a free-agent contract with the Seattle Seahawks over the weekend. During his high-school days, he was named The Sun News’ defensive player of the year in 2006 and to the SCADA North-South All-Star Football game that same year. He originally attended Wofford. He transferred to North Greenville.

There, he flourished.

Aside from piling up 132 tackles and 23.5 tackles for a loss, the linebacker also had 5.5 sacks and three interceptions. He was selected to play in the South Carolina College All Star Bowl. There, he ran an official 4.39 40-yard dash.

It opened the eyes of several NFL scouts, including those affiliated with the Seahawks.

“Most guys don’t get this opportunity, and I feel truly blessed,” Sharpe said through a release from North Greenville. “I’ve had a great supporting cast around me, that has always believed in me, and I am thankful for that.”

If Sharpe makes the Seahawks’ roster, he will be the second Conway graduate in the NFL this season. Former Tiger and University of Michigan receiver Junior Hemingway is entering his second year with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Geathers football camp on tap for this weekend

Robert Geathers Jr. will be hosting his Elite Performance Football Camp Saturday at Carvers Bay High School.

The event, which caters to players age 8-13, includes free admission to the first 150 children interested in participating. After that, admission is not guaranteed, although the camp will attempt to accommodate as many players as possible.

Registration forms for the camp must be filled out before players can attend; those forms can be picked up at the high school, as well as the middle school, Brown’s Ferry Elementary, Plantersville Elementary and Pleasant Hill Elementary.

Geathers graduated from Carvers Bay in 2000. He played collegiately at Georgia before being drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2004. He has spent his entire 10-year NFL career with that team.

For more information, contact Carvers Bay assistant coach and event coordinator Matt Richard at 558-6920 or 359-2244.

Contact IAN GUERIN at ian@ianguerin.com.

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