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TUESDAY, MAY 9, 2006
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Athens counting on seniors, pitching to carry team to state

By Michael Wetzel
DAILY Assistant Sports Editor

mwetzel@decaturdaily.com 340-2462

When Athens High coach Thad Prater looks at his roster, he sees seven seniors, strong pitching and maybe even a decent shot at winning the Class 5A softball state championship.

"We're definitely counting on our senior leadership," Prater said as the No. 3-ranked Lady Golden Eagles (50-15) practiced for a sub-state matchup against Lee-Huntsville today.

First pitch in the best-of-three series is 3:30 p.m. at Athens High.

"As coaches, we've done all we can do," he said. "It is up to the girls to come ready to play. It will take everybody contributing to move on to Montgomery."

Prater said he is not counting games, but knows his team needs four wins to advance to the state tournament May 18-20 at Montgomery's Lagoon Park and about 10 total wins to bring the state championship trophy back to Athens.

Athens will be counting on the mound work of seniors Whitney Hawkins and Lacey Kerr and sophomore Tiffnee Eaton.

In Hawkins' last outing, she tossed a perfect game against Hartselle in the Area 16 tournament Friday. In the 4-0 win, Hawkins struck out six. At the plate, she slapped two singles.

In the area championship game against Hartselle, Kerr threw a complete game in the 3-2 win in eight innings. She struck out five and surrendered five hits.

"Winning the area allows us to play at home," Prater said. "It was nice to see our girls come back after being down 2-0 early to Hartselle."

Meanwhile, Area 16 runner-up Hartselle travels to Buckhorn for a 3 p.m. start today.

Hartselle is ranked seventh, while Buckhorn is eighth.

In all, 13 area teams will play sub-state first-round games today.

In Class 3A, ninth-ranked West Morgan finds itself traveling to No. 2 Pisgah for a rematch. The Lady Rebels fell to Pisgah 2-1 in a state semifinal game last year. Pisgah has won five straight state championships.

In Class 2A, No. 2-ranked Tanner looks for another trip to Montgomery. The Gynger Williams-coached squad finished second in the state last year, dropping two games to Flomaton 7-1 and 4-3 in the finals.

No area Class 6A team qualified for sub-state.

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