It ended exactly the way every team, every player, every coach dreamed it would. A dream season that culminated in something that everyone at Banks County can claim forever. The Lady Leopards are the 2019 Class 2A State Champions following a season that saw them accomplish near perfection. In fact, Banks County dominated from wire to wire, being the #1-ranked team in the state almost through the entire season, won the regular season and tournament region 8-AA championship, and rolled through the playoffs like none we’ve ever seen.
School records were obliterated, as the Lady Leopards and first year head coach Kelby Cronic racked up a program-best 33 wins against just 3 losses, and when we say dominated playoff opponents, it might be the biggest understatement ever. The Lady Leopards outscored playoff teams 97-1!
“I don’t know if it’s ever been done before,” says Cronic. “Banks County is going to go down in history…we dominated everybody. You feel proud as a coach to know you got your players to a point where people respect their abilities. ”
Banks County also was able to do the impossible by hosting and winning a state title on its home field following a rain postponed championship game in Columbus. The girls were up 4-1 in the 5th inning against Bremen, just outs away from claiming the championship trophy. But rain came down in buckets. After a very long delay, it was determined that the title game would move back to Homer to complete the game.
“It was like watching a scary movie – the anticipation,” says senior Jill Martinet, who hit .480 this season with 9 HR and 46 RBI. “The attitude going into that game wasn’t a cocky attitude, but it was ‘we’re doing this right now, right here.’ I will never forget that moment.”
The game at Banks County lured some 400-500 fans around the community. When Tybee Denton struck out the final batter, everything the girls set out to do was accomplished.
“Before that inning, we talked about how we wanted the inning to be an all-strikeout inning,” says Denton, who put up gaudy numbers in 2019. “For the last pitch to be a strikeout, for it to be memorable so we could all dog-pile at the mound. When you look around and see all the fans, and the emotion of all my teammates – it was just great!”
Denton led the team with a .423 AVG, 12 HR, and 41 RBI, and she was 29-3 in the circle with a 0.47 ERA and 412 strikeouts, all school records.
“I wonder who was more nervous, me or [Tybee Denton],” says Cronic of the final out. “We said alright, just one more out, and we’re state champions. [We’ve] come so far, worked so hard. Four or five hundred fans here cheering us on. Just to watch that happen and unfold, and to win the whole thing…the season started off with a strikeout against Stephens County and ended with a strikeout against Bremen. What better way can you have a season?”
“I was freaking out,” says Martinet. “I thought to myself, ‘this is so real!’ I started to cry and thought, ‘please don’t hit the ball to me because I can’t see.’”
While the team and school will celebrate this win for quite awhile, Cronic and junior daughter Madison Cronic are already looking on ways to defend the title. It will be quite the challenge after losing seven key seniors, but the program has established a sensational foundation.
“The freshman this year are so amazing,” says Madi Cronic (.460-2-14). “I’m very confident in next year.”
Forever and always, the Lady Leopards will be State Champions!
“This all started a long time ago,” says Martinet. “I remember back in 6th grade, Nick Denton (travel ball coach), he said ‘this team here, we’re going to win a state championship; we’re built to win a state championship.’ To be a part of that, I’m so thankful they brought me in.”
“I don’t want to let this thing out of my sight,” adds coach Cronic on the state championship trophy, which he hopes will lead to parades downtown in Homer, and a “tour” of the trophy to county schools, etc.
Let the pageantry begin!
Digital Copy of Interview – Tybee Denton Madi Cronic Jill Martinet
Digital Copy of Interview - Tybee Denton Madi Cronic Jill Martinet
Digital Copy of Interview – Kelby Cronic
Digital Copy of Interview - Kelby Cronic