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Mitchell: Local sports worthy of recognition
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It’s easy to become absorbed by the compelling draw to national sports.

As I sit here, hammering out this column on my keyboard, my attention is being constantly drawn away from my work to the NCAA tournament basketball game being played on TV.

As sports fans, we are bombarded with so much news from various professional and collegiate leagues year-round. Just think: Right now, we have one of the biggest events in college sports taking place alongside NFL free agency and the start to the Major League baseball season.

The storylines are unending: Where will Peyton Manning sign? Is Jason Heyward going to return to form at the plate? And where exactly is Lehigh University located?

What we forget when we allow the spectacle of major athletics to capture too much of our attention, however, is the excellent athletics taking place right outside our front doors.

Take a look at the high school spring sports across the area, and you’ll see a number of teams and individuals already worthy of recognition.

At Flowery Branch, its baseball team is off to a 6-2 start, its boys soccer team is undefeated in Region 8-AAAA, and the girls soccer team is perfect on the season, allowing just two goals in 11 games.

Gainesville sports equally impressive teams thus far. Both girls and boys soccer teams have perfect region records, the girls tennis team is ranked No. 7 in the state in Class AAA, both girls and boys golf teams won the Hall County Golf Championships, and the baseball team is off to a 10-0 start.

After a slow start, North Hall baseball has won five straight, and East Hall picked up its first win in more than a season.

And the individual performances have been equally impressive.

Already, we have seen a no-hitter thrown by a pitcher (Kolin Zimmer) at Jackson County. Gainesville sophomore pitcher Michael Gettys is 4-0 on the mound, including three games in which he did not allow a single run, and Johnson’s A.J. Benefield tossed a complete-game two-hitter in a 2-1 win over West Hall.

The Lady Falcons soccer team has been led by 19 goals from Cassidy Elrod, including four hat tricks, and nine shutouts from keeper Lauren Dunn. Not to be outdone, Gainesville girls player Hartley Carter notched five goals in a 10-0 win over Franklin County on Friday night.

Now, all of this isn’t to say that the sports we watch on TV aren’t compelling. I filled out my brackets for the NCAA tournament just like everyone else. My heart rose in excitement as I picked the first nine games correctly (and tumbled like a brick when I missed nearly half of the next 23).

But the temperatures are rising, and the sun is coming out. Spring sports are in full swing, and there is plenty to see right here in Hall County and beyond. And as far as I’m concerned, nothing is as relaxing as kicking back in the mild weather and scoring a baseball game.

So, make a day to pull out a folding chair and take in a game of baseball, soccer or tennis. Hit the links and follow along with some of the impressive golfers we have around the area.

Because, sometimes, the most compelling sports are right under your nose.


David Mitchell is a sports writer for The Times. Contact him at