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Darton golf takes 3rd at district, qualifies for nationals

Darton’s Joe Sakulpolphaisan, the No. 1-ranked junior college golfer in the nation, finished at 3-over and was runner-up behind Meridian’s Jake Stirling, who shot a 5-under 208 and beat Sakulpolphaisan by eight strokes.

Darton’s Joe Sakulpolphaisan, the No. 1-ranked junior college golfer in the nation, finished at 3-over and was runner-up behind Meridian’s Jake Stirling, who shot a 5-under 208 and beat Sakulpolphaisan by eight strokes.

MELBOURNE, Fla. — It was a bumpy ride, but it still took the Cavs right where there wanted to be.

The Darton golf team overcame a rough opening day at the NJCAA Division I District IV tournament and bounced back Tuesday with a final-round score of 294 to finish in third place, qualifying the Cavs for next month’s national tournament for the 11th straight year.

The Cavs had visions of repeating as district champions against a stacked field that included several nationally-ranked teams, but they couldn’t overcome their opening-day scores of 299 and 306.

“We shot ourselves in the foot (Monday) and didn’t leave us with a shot of winning the tournament,” Darton coach Bill Jones III said. “If you take away (Monday) we are happy. (Monday) was so bad that we could have shot under par (Tuesday) and still not won.”

Darton’s Joe Sakulpolphaisan, the No. 1-ranked junior college golfer in the nation, finished at 3-over and was runner-up behind Meridian’s Jake Stirling, who shot a 5-under 208 and beat Sakulpolphaisan by eight strokes.

Meridian, which is the top-ranked team in the nation, shot a final-round score of 291 to jump past opening-round leader and tournament host Brevard and win the tournament by eight strokes.

Other finishers for the No. 5 Cavs were Chase Jones (14-over), Shad Tuten (18-over), Nick Green (23-over) and Austin McNeill (24-over).

Darton plays again Friday through Sunday in the Region XVII tournament at Stonebridge Country Club as the Cavs will be vying for their Georgia JUCO record 11th straight state title after breaking the record with 10 last year.

Jones said a good performance at state — combined with the final round of district — could provide much-needed momentum for nationals. With Tuesday’s finish, the Cavs have now placed in the Top 3 in eight of their nine tournaments this year.

LADY CAVS SWEEP: The Darton softball team bounced back from its third loss of the season to sweep South Georgia on Tuesday, 10-2 in five innings and 5-4 in 11 innings.

The No. 13 Lady Cavs (40-3, 12-2), who lost the second game of a doubleheader Friday against Waycross, were led by sophomore second baseman Amanda Jaskolski in the opener.

Jaskolski was 2-for-3 with a pair of home runs and six RBI and hit a grand slam in the fourth inning that broke a 2-2 tie. Bryana Contreras was 2-for-3 with a home run, Holly Smith was 2-for-3 with a double and Katy Jordan (5 IP, 3 H, 8 K) was the winning pitcher.

Freshman Jenny Willis (5 IP, 6 H, 8 K) started the second game but was relieved by Jordan, who didn’t allow a hit and struck out eight in the final six innings.

Jessica Vason was 2-for-6 with two RBI and had the game-winning hit in the bottom of the 11th inning when she knocked in Chantelle Curinton. Kelsey Ogletree was also 2-for-5 with a solo home run in the nightcap, while Chelsea Showers was 3-for-4 with an RBI.

With the wins, the Lady Cavs stayed two games ahead of Waycross in the Region XVII standings and will play again Thursday at home against Georgia Military College.

CAVS, ALDRICH LOSE TO GORDON: Darton ace Matt Aldrich struggled on the mound, and the Cavs’ bats couldn’t bail him out Tuesday against Gordon. Aldrich (6-1) gave up six hits, four walks and two runs in seven innings, and Darton lost the Region XVII game to Gordon, 5-2.

The No. 20 Cavs (33-11, 18-3) are now tied atop the region standings with Middle Georgia, and the two teams will play four times next week to battle for the No. 1 seed in next month’s region tournament.

Gordon entered Tuesday’s game 9-11 in conference play but had little trouble knocking off the Cavs, who had just seven hits.

Russell Melton and Parker Nix each had an RBI for Darton, which plays again Friday in Barnesville against Gordon.