Darton softball begins season No. 10 in nation; Cavs wrestling team heads to first-ever state tournament

Darton softball coach David Dews

Darton softball coach David Dews

ALBANY – The Darton State College Lady Cavaliers are the No. 10-ranked team in the country, the NJCAA announced Thursday when it released its annual preseason poll.

The poll reflects returning sophomores, new talent and a 2012 season in which Darton went 47-7.

“This may be the best preseason poll we’ve had,” Darton head coach David Dews said. “I’m certainly happy for them, but we want to be able to look at it in a mature way. Tenth is good, but we want to be No. 1 in the end.”

A talented class of sophomores who fell one game short of a region title in 2012 return to the program, including All-America outfielder Chelsea Showers of Atlanta, All-Region 3B Kelsea Ogletree of Marietta, All-Region catcher Holly Smith of Dudley, and LHP Jenny Willis of Dacula.

Dews brought in nine freshmen student-athletes led by RHP Jostlyn Higgerson of Enterprise, Ala., 1B Melissa Dearth of Loganville, SS Bree Wells of Canton, OF Sierra Newman of Bryan County, and 2B Kelsey Swinson of Oxford.

“We have a lot of good freshmen,” Dews said. “Good players who are good team-oriented players. We play together really well. They’re very coachable and have high character.”

They Darton softball team will open the season Thursday in a doubleheader against neighboring Andrew College at 2 p.m. DARTON WRESTLING TEAM HEADS TO STATE: The Darton State College wrestling program will compete in the Georgia Intercollegiate Championships — the first tournament of its kind — Sunday in Marietta.

The Cavaliers will be the only NJCAA team in a tournament that exclusively includes Georgia’s five intercollegiate wrestling programs — Darton, Brewton-Parker, Life University, Truett-McConnell College and Shorter University.

The Cavaliers have not wrestled against Life, but they’ve beaten the three other contenders in dual meets this season. And the Cavaliers are top-seeded in two of the tournament’s 10 weight classes.

Jamel Sharpe, a freshman from Valdosta, is 18-1 for the Cavaliers and hasn’t lost a match since wrestling against NCAA D-1 program Campbell University in November. He’ll be the top seed in the 125-pound class on Sunday.

Earl Sharpe is also top seeded for the Cavs. The freshman from Durham, N.C., wrestles at 133 pounds and is 13-2.

And freshman Braxton Owens, who went 8-4 while wrestling at 149 pounds enters as the No. 2 seed in the 141-pound weight class.

“This is the first time we’ll be full strength since Christmas,” Darton head coach James Hicks said.

The tournament is hosted by the Atlanta Takedown Association and Team Georgia. It will be held at the Life University campus in Marietta.