New-Look Lady Leopards put championship in the past [VIDEO]
Almost every team that wins anything of significance faces the same dangerous opponent the following season – itself. That’s because teams that typically win a championship fall into the “Championship Hangover” in which they do not match that intensity or production from the prior season. In many cases it’s a case of complete roster churn. Others, fatigue. But more often than not, it’s resting on past success. That’s not the case for Banks County, the reigning 2A State Champions from 2019.
“We just focus,” says head coach Kelby Cronic. “I want the kids to look at [the title] and say ‘these are the accomplishments we’ve earned,’ but yesterday’s homers don’t mean nothing for today’s game. Last year’s championship, last year’s wins…that’s last year. Yeah, we’re the defending state champions, but that doesn’t mean anything. Now we have to go back and defend it.”
His daughter, now-senior Madison Cronic, is set to lead the charge as one of the two seniors in 2020. She echoes the importance of putting the championship win behind them if they want to continue to have success.
“You just can’t think about it,” says Madi Cronic. “That was last year, and this is this year. We still have to go out there and play our best every game.”
Cronic hit .460 last season with a pair of homers and drove in 14 runs. She also battled through back issues all last season, and comes into 2020 healthy and with more power.
While the intensity from last season will still be there, it’s impossible not to note how different the team will look without Tybee Denton, the All-State pitching/hitter who won BLITZ Player of the Year and went on to UNG. She posted a state line of .423 average, 12 homeruns, 41 RBI, and went 29-3 in the circle with a 0.47 ERA and struck out 412 batters.
“Tybee is a once-in-a-lifetime player possibly,” says Cronic. “I hope we have another like her, you hope so. But this year, I’m looking at [Lindsey Crawford and Jacy Ayers] to be a one-two punch with each other. Do I expect 14-16 strikeouts per game like Tybee was doing? No, I don’t expect that. We’re going to have to play a little more defense, but our defense is solid, so I’m not worried about it.”
The offense will also look much different, as Denton and recent grad Jill Martinet (.480-9-46) and Kya Santiago all leave some big shoes to fill.
“It’s hard to replace a Tybee Denton,” says Cronic. “But it’s one of those things, you can’t dwell on those players or those championships. We had a tremendous sophomore group that really as freshmen last year pushed those seniors to make them better. In turn, it made those younger girls better. We have girls that can play the game at the same level as some of those girls that left.”
Banks County does have the pieces to continue this train of success. That starts with Cronic and Jacy Ayers (.419 average), as well as players like Kylee Brooks (.457). Cronic noted that the sophomore class is in particular, very strong. He has enough to make another deep playoff run.
“Our first and foremost goal, we want to get back to Columbus,” says coach Cronic. “You have to get back to Columbus to defend the title. I’m pretty confident that we’re going to be one of those eight making our trip to Columbus. I’ll take something from [former BC] coach Tony Bowen, ‘You just have to get to the dance, you can do whatever you want to do. You just got to get there first.’ Once we get there, we hope to take the trophy back home.”
One thing’s for sure as well as pertains to Banks County softball in 2020 – the bullseye on their back is bigger than ever. We can confirm that other teams have circled BC on the schedule in hopes of knocking off the Lady Leopards. But bad news for those teams – Banks County embraces the bullseye on the back.
“Really I don’t think we think about it too much,” says Madi Cronic. “We just go out and play. I think a lot of teams may overlook us this year because we don’t have Tybee, but I think we can be just as good this year.”
Madison Cronic is fielding college offers and hopes to near some kind of decision in the near future. The Lady Leopards open their season on August 10 against East Hall at home.
Digital Copy of Interview – Madi Cronic
Digital Copy of Interview - Madi Cronic
Digital Copy of Interview – Kelby Cronic
Digital Copy of Interview - Kelby Cronic