Originally created 05/28/03

Historic season brings followers



GIBSON, Ga. - After its second-round playoff win against Athens Academy on Saturday, the Glascock County baseball team dropped its bats and gloves and took a knee in the outfield grass.

Then the modeling began.

Parents wielding cameras entered the field and began snapping shots. Fans toting camcorders followed behind, documenting the history.

Another win for the Panthers meant another picture had to be taken.

That attitude is not likely to change at 3 p.m. today when Glascock County plays Long County at home in the Class A best-of-three quarterfinal series.

Pictures and video from the community will document the event; fans and supporters will attend it.

Just call this small town: Gibson, home of the nation's longest football losing streak - and some of the best baseball in the state.

"We've had great support this year," Glascock County coach Don Mims said. "When I go to the gas station, everybody always asks me when we're playing again."

For the Panthers, who never have advanced past the first round of the postseason, this type of support is unusual.

Last season, with virtually the same team, they went 9-13 and missed the postseason. This year - with its top pitcher, Timothy Murphey, hampered by a shoulder injury - Glascock County is 21-6 and has a legitimate chance to contend for a state title.

For Murphey, it's an unusual feeling.

"You see the faces of everybody when the game is over and we've moved onto the next round," he said. "You get a feeling that you can't even explain."

How the Panthers have gotten that feeling, though, is easy to decipher.

After losing one senior off last year's squad, the Panthers added freshmen Josh Harrell (7-1, 1.91 ERA in the regular season), Josh Daniel (16 runs scored, 10 RBI) and Chris Hattaway to the lineup.

The rookies have paid off.

"We knew they'd be good, because we played with them in rec ball," said junior pitcher Matt Kent. "We knew what they were capable of."

Kent has been valuable in his own right, taking much of the burden off the pitching shoulder of Murphey.

Although Murphey struck out 111 hitters in 55 innings last season, the junior struggled with his arm this season, and Kent - who is 7-3 - has filled the position of team ace.

"I feel real confident every time I step on the mound," Kent said. "When my breaking ball and splitter are working, the hitters up there are just guessing."

"Matt has really picked up a lot of the slack," Murphey said. "He's pitching better than he ever has before. At times, (the injury) has frustrated me, knowing I wasn't the man on the spot. But then I started seeing that it didn't matter. When you win, you just win."

And the Glascock County community - with its flashes charging and it video cameras whirling - has decided to come along for the ride.

Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or josh.katzowitz@augustachronicle.com.