Hall of Fame inductions top 2011 sports story

The top 10 Bainbridge and Decatur County sports stories in 2011 ranged from the induction of the first four members of the Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame, and Jack Wingate, the “Sage of Seminole,” passing away.

The following is a synopsis of those top 10 local sports stories.

1. Hall of Fame Inductees

Four men who were outstanding in their sport and a positive influence on untold numbers of Decatur County young peoples’ lives through the years, became the first inductees into the Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, Feb 26, at the Bainbridge College Charles H. Kirbo Regional Center.

Two of the four were highly successful Bainbridge High School Bearcats head football coach Spencer “Onion” Davis, and former Major League Baseball shortstop and third baseman Ernest Riles, who led the Middle Georgia College Warriors to consecutive junior college world series championships and was named the junior college world series’ most valuable player in 1981 and USA Today American League rookie of the year with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1985.

Davis, who was also an outstanding left-handed minor league baseball pitcher, led the Bearcats to a perfect 10-0 regular season record and Region 1-AA football championship in 1960.

His 1960 running back tandem of fullback Fred Barber, who went on to play for the Georgia Bulldogs and is a member of the University of Georgia sports hall of fame, and halfback Ed Varner, who went on to play for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, were on hand to see coach Davis’ Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame Induction.

Also inducted into the Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame’s first class were Jones-Wheat Elementary School principal Larry Clark, who played defensive back for the Hutto High School Tigers, the Bainbridge High School Bearcats and the Morehouse College Maroon Tigers. As a track coach, he led the Bearcats to Region track championships in 1987, 1990, 1991, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 and Sub-Region championships in 1984, 1985 and 1986.

Clark stepped down as head track coach in 2006 and turned the track program over to one of his top sprinters, Larry Cosby. With Cosby as the head coach and Clark as his top assistant and adviser, the Bearcats won five more Region track championships in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. In 2010 they also won the State Class AAAA championship under Cosby.

Next spring, the third-annual Larry Clark Invitational Track Meet, named in his honor, will be held at the Bainbridge High School track.

Also inducted into the Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame’s first class was former two time Auburn University Tigers All-American offensive tackle Ken Rice. Rice was an outstanding two-way performer, playing tackle on defense and running back on offense, for Davis’ Bearcats in the 1950s.

He was named the outstanding lineman in the SEC as a junior and senior at Auburn in 1959 and 1960. He was also named the conference’s most outstanding defensive lineman in 1960.

Rice was elected to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.

During Auburn’s march to the 2010 Bowl Championship Series (BCS) college football national championship, Rice received the 2010 Walter Gilbert Award, the highest award the Auburn athletic department gives to former athletes.

 2. New facilities unveiled

On Monday, April 11, the new eight-field state-of-the-art baseball and softball complex that concluded the Bill Reynolds Sports Park’s third phase, was officially opened in conjunction with opening ceremonies for the 2011 Bainbridge youth teeball, baseball and softball seasons. Phase three also included a new basketball court facility. Activities opened with the cutting of a ribbon, officially dedicating the new eight field youth baseball and softball complex. Marching into the complex were 881 players representing 68 youth teams, led by program director Diane Atkinson. The complex is named for the late Bainbridge Mayor Bill Reynolds. Also taking part in the ceremony were his son, current Mayor Edward Reynolds, and Mrs. Sug Reynolds.

3. Bearcats bounce back with strong season

Coach Ed Pilcher’s 2011 Bainbridge High School Bearcats football team posted an outstanding 10-2 regular season record, bouncing back from a 3-7 mark in 2010.

In 2011, the Bearcats finished third in Region 1AAAA. They nailed down third place with a thrilling 27-24 Friday, Nov. 4, overtime victory over the Thomas County Central High School Yellow Jackets at Centennial Field.

In the first round of the State Class AAAA playoffs, on Friday, Nov. 11, the Bearcats built a 14-7 third quarter lead, before falling behind and losing 21-14 to the Ware County High School Gators  at Waycross’s Memorial Stadium.

4. Loeffler in Missouri Valley Hall of Fame

Decatur County Commissioner Frank Loeffler, former starting offensive guard and middle linebacker with the undefeated 1961 Missouri Valley College Vikings, was inducted into the Missouri Valley Hall of Fame on Saturday, Oct. 22, along with his teammates in Marshall, Mo.

At Missouri Valley, Loeffler, a retired transportation director with the Decatur County School System, played under late college football hall of fame coach Volney C. Ashford, a graduate of Missouri Valley, who coached the Vikings for 34 years. Following his college career, Loeffler signed a free agent professional football contract and played for the Buffalo Bills.

5. Pam Martin-Wells wins Classic, AOY

Legendary Bainbridge bass angler Pam Martin-Wells nailed down angler of the year honors and added another victory to her impressive list of championships on Tuesday, Oct. 11, when she won the inaugural Lady Bass Anglers Association (LBAA) 2011 Lady Bass Classic on Kentucky Lake with a three day total of 25.60 pounds.

Martin-Wells, who had earlier won tournaments at Guntersville and Old Hickory, told the weigh-in audience that the key to her victory was persistence and keeping the faith. “I just kept believing in the spot I was in and believing in myself and sticking to it,” she said. She reported catching fish on a Texas rigged Net Bait Trick Worm.

6. Baulkman, McCullough best in Region

On March 15, Bainbridge High School Bearcats forward Devon Baulkman and coach Rickey McCullough of the Region 1-AAAA champion Bainbridge High School Bearcats were named the region’s boys basketball player and coach of the year. It marked the second-consecutive year that Baulkman had been named player of the year and the third-consecutive year that McCullough had been named coach of the year. Baulkman averaged a team high 20.8 points and 7.8 rebounds a game. Coach McCullough led the Bearcats to a 27-3 record, the Region 1-AAAA championship and a berth in the second round of the State Class AAAA Tournament.

7. Bearcats take 13th straight track title

In April, the Bainbridge High School Bearcats track team won their 13th consecutive region championship when they captured the Region 1AAAA championship at the Hugh Mills Memorial Stadium track in Albany. The Bearcats, coached by Larry Cosby, were led by sprinter Shawn Samuels, who won the region championship in the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes with times of 10.97 seconds and 22.19 seconds. In the field events, they were led by Jamar Venuisee-Cosby, who won the high jump with a leap of 5 feet, 11 inches; Delonte Martistee, who won the triple jump with a leap of 46 feet, 10 inches; and Rohan Gaines, who won the long jump with a leap of 21 feet, 9 inches.

8. Two named best in their sport

In May, Bainbridge High School Bearcats senior soccer center Hal Clement was named Region 1-AAAA South Sub-Region player of the year, and in December Bearcats senior football defensive tackle Shammai Wilburn was named defensive player of the year by the region coaches and first team Class AAAA All-State by The Atlanta Journal- Constitution and The Associated Press.

Clement had 26 goals and 10 assists and also finished as the leading goal scorer in school history with 61. Wilburn had 57 tackles — 36 solo and 21 assisted.

9. Akins excels around the world

Former Bainbridge High School Bearcats All-State and Auburn University Tigers All-American hurdler Ty Akins returned in August from overseas, where he turned in strong performances in the 110-meter hurdles at various professional meets. Coach Larry Clark, his former Bearcats track coach, said he couldn’t be prouder of Akins, who performs professionally with the Doyle Management Group’s team.

“The best thing about Ty’s efforts is the consistency he has shown,” Clark said. “All of his times have been very low.”

He is getting ready to try and compete in the Summer Olympic Games in London. Akins was first in the 110-meter hurdles at meets in Sweden, Czechoslovakia, France and Spain, with times of 13.40, 13.35 13.35 and 13.40.

10. Local fishing legend Jack Wingate dies

Local fishing legend Jack Wingate, “The Sage of Seminole” passed away Thursday, Dec. 8, at the age of 82. The Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS), the world’s premier pro-fishing circuit, posted an article talking about Wingate’s impact on the fishing world. He was known not only for his fishing expertise but also for his love and knowledge of this region. “He had a passion for this region, its history, and the importance of Lake Seminole as a resource,” Bainbridge Mayor Edward Reynolds said, describing Wingate, who is in the “legendary guides” section of the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wis.

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