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LOCAL COLLEGE ROUNDUP: Darton baseball ascends to No. 12 in Top 25 poll, ties program’s highest ranking ever; ASU baseball, softball falls on the road

Darton baseball coach Scot Hemmings

Darton baseball coach Scot Hemmings

ALBANY — The Darton State College baseball team, unlike many of their classmates, didn’t get to leave town and party it up on the beach for spring break this week.

The Cavs got just one day off — and they used it to keep their competitive juices flowing.

“They all played golf (Wednesday),” Darton head coach Scot Hemmings laughed. “That’s how they spent their spring break.”

That, and rolling up win after win.

The Cavs, who have won 19 of their last 20 games — including tying a school record with 15 in a row at one point — might not be getting rewarded with time off by their head coach for their hard work, but it’s be recognized by the NJCAA, which moved Darton (25-5, 12-1) up to No. 12 in the nation Wednesday when it released the latest Top 25 Poll. The ranking ties the highest ever for the program, which also reached as high as No. 12 last season.

But Hemmings said it could’ve been higher.

“I believe that we’re probably ranked where we belong and need to be, but if we still had our winning streak (in tact) and we had won 20 in a row (before the poll was released), I believe we would’ve easily been in the Top 10— maybe the Top 5,” the second-year coach said. “There’s some teams in front of us with a few more wins, so we’re probably in the right spot. I just wish we had won that game.”

The game in question took place last week when Darton — which had won 15 in a row at that point — traveled to Carrollton to take on a mediocre West Georgia Tech program the Cavs have owned in recent seasons. And despite being ahead, 3-2, late, Darton lost, 4-3, to snap the streak, which had already tied the school record set back in 2005.

“In the grand scheme, as much as I hate to say this, the loss was probably good for us. It woke us up a little bit,” said Hemmings, whose team has since started a new streak, winning four in a row, including a three-game sweep of that same West Georgia Tech team over the weekend. “Fifteen in a row set a tempo for us, a tempo that had my guys believing they would just win by stepping on the field and just showing up every game. I’d been warning them for weeks that the way we were playing on Tuesdays (after a few days off over the weekend and Monday) was going to catch up to us. And it finally did.

“It humbled us a little there, and I think that was good for us. But my guys have responded. I’m really proud.”

During the current run the Cavs are on, they’re turning heads nationally toward Southwest Georgia. Darton leads the nation in stolen bases with 99 — led by Riliani Famila’s team-high 18 — and Kyle Conkle leads the state in batting average at .413. The Cavs also own the top four spots in Georgia in RBI with Casey James No. 1 with 29, followed by Brandon Sharpe, Cody Wofford and Nate Ferrell rounding out the Top 4.

“We’re just getting great effort right now from everyone. I said a couple of weeks ago that we weren’t pitching very well, but our offense was carrying us, but now we’re pitching well, too,” the coach said. “Those pitchers have answered the call, like Casey Moody (against Andrew College on Tuesday). He was nearly unhittable.”

Darton ace A.J. Sunstrom leads the team with five wins, followed by Chris Long and John Harman with four each, while relievers Andrew Crumbley, Moody and former Cordele native Davis Adkins, all of whom lead the team ERA, which is “under 2,” Hemmings said.

Darton returns to action Friday against Andrew with a single game, followed by a doubleheader Saturday in Cuthbert. The Cavs’ next home game is Tuesday against ABAC.

ASU FALLS TO VALDOSTA STATE

VALDOSTA — It was a long night for the Albany State baseball team as the Rams fell to Valdosta State, 13-0 on Wednesday.

Clifford Peterson started and was sharp, allowing just one hit and shutting out Valdosta for three innings. Ryan Latner relieved Peterson and took the loss after giving up five runs on two hits in the fourth inning. An error allowed three unearned runs to score.

"I pitched everybody,'' said ASU coach Kenyan Conner, who added that no one had a good night at the plate.

The Rams are now 10-18 and travel to Tuskegee for a doubleheader on Friday, beginning at noon.

ROLLINS SWEEPS LADY RAMS SOFTBALL TEAM

ORLANDO — Rollins, a powerhouse in softball (34-4) swept the Albany State softball team on Wednesday, winning the first game, 1-5, and then hanging on to beat the Lady Rams, 2-1, in the nightcap.

Chelsea Hicks went 2-for-4 with a home run in the opener and 2-for-3 in the second game. She also pitched the opener and gave up 10 runs on 12 hits. Chaconna Marks and Vanessa Jones both went 2-for-3 in the opener. Alexis Lopez pitched the second game and gave up just one earned run on seven hits while striking out nine.

The Lady Rams (21-17) who are in Florida during spring break, play at Fort Lauderdale Nova at 1 p.m. on Friday.

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