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In a rare repeat, two county athletes who earned statewide honors on the diamond and continued their careers at Southeastern Conference schools are The Lancaster News' athletes of the year for 2007.
Steven Neff, who starred for Lancaster High School and Lancaster Post 31 baseball teams, and Andrew Jackson star softball player Casey Faile are the honorees.
Neff, a freshman member of the University of South Carolina baseball team, is the News' Male Athlete of the Year. Faile, a freshman at Louisiana State University, is The Lancaster News' Female Athlete of the Year.
Faile capped a brilliant high school softball career, leading Andrew Jackson to its second straight Class AA state softball championship.
The AJ ace right-hander was named the Gatorade Player of the Year for S.C. prep softball.
A North-South All-Star MVP, Faile fashioned a stellar season with the Lady Vols, going 30-3 with a sterling 0.35 earned run average. In 191 innings, Faile fanned 519 and walked only eight. She notched 10 no-hitters and six perfect games.
At the plate, Faile batted .615 with eight home runs and 42 RBIs. In her Lady Vols' softball career, Faile posted a 107-19 mark.
Faile was outstanding in the Lady Vols’ playoff run, going 8-0 with 117 strikeouts and only one walk. She yielded two unearned runs. Two of her wins were perfect games and two more came on no-hitters. At the plate in the postseason, Faile batted .920 (23-25) with four homers and 12 runs batted in for the 34-3 Lady Vols.
Neff produced a stellar senior season for the Bruins, who went 18-11 and earned a No. 5 ranking in the final S.C. Baseball Coaches Association Class AAAA state poll. He batted .303 with 30 hits and six stolen bases last spring.
As a pitcher, Neff fashioned a 1.38 earned run average with 117 strikeouts in 76.1 innings. The LHS southpaw allowed only 29 walks. A four-year starter for the Bruins, Neff earned the 2007 S.C. Gatorade Player of the Year for prep baseball. The LHS baseball MVP, Neff also played in the Carolinas Select Game last summer.
A three-time All-Region III-AAAA pick, Neff was named to the 2007 Lake Murray Classic and Southeastern Baseball Classic all-tournament teams.
He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 26th round of the annual Major League Baseball draft, but opted to continue his career in college baseball at USC where he signed in the fall of his senior year at LHS.
Bruins, AJ, P-31
The Lancaster High and Post 31 baseball teams and Andrew Jackson softball team are the 2007 most outstanding teams.
The Lady Volunteers of head coach Steve Middleton won the Class AA state softball championship for the second straight season, posting a 34-3 mark.
The Lady Vols won the Class AA Lower State title for the second straight season and then knocked off Upper State champion Chapman in two straight games to garner the Class AA state crown.
AJ downed the CHS Lady Panthers 3-0 and then wrapped up the series with a 4-1 home win.
The Lady Vols won their seventh district title and earned a bid to the Class AA playoffs with their ninth region championship under coach Middleton. Lady Vols' star Casey Faile was the Gatorade Player of the Year for softball and also earned a North-South All-Star honor as the Class AA-AAA South MVP.
The Bruins' stellar baseball season included an 18-11 record and a No. 5 ranking in the final S.C. Baseball Coaches Association state poll.
The Bruins won the District II championship to earn a berth in the Class AAAA Upper State championship series.
LHS entered the playoffs as the third seed out of Region III-AAAA, but was the lone region survivor in its solid postseason run.
Bruins' star pitcher-outfielder Steven Neff was named the S.C. Gatorade Player of the Year and LHS ace hurler Marc Rape was the Class A-AAAA MVP in the annual North-South All-Star baseball game at Myrtle Beach.
The Post 31 Legion team, led by first-year manager Rashad Cunningham, fashioned a splendid summer with a 27-10 mark and the League V title.
Lancaster also earned a state tournament bid in Rock Hill, marking the first time P-31 made it since the state tournament format was changed.
Andrew Jackson High School softball coach Steve Middleton, who led the Lady Volunteers to their second straight Class AA state championship, is The Lancaster News Coach of the Year for female sports.
Middleton is assisted by Phil Faile, Larry Truesdale, Moose Phillips, Meg Faile, Doug Kirk and manager Jerry Singleton.
In 25 years coaching softball, Middleton is 450-172.
Lancaster High School baseball coach Steve Williams and Lancaster Post 31 manager Rashad Cunningham are The Lancaster News selections for Coach of the Year for male sports.
Williams guided the LHS Bruins to an 18-11 mark and a No. 5 rating in the final Class AAAA state poll. During the season, Williams, the LHS head coach since 1993, was presented his 180th career win. Williams is assisted by Eric Funderburk, Garrett Hammond and Skip Small.
Cunningham piloted P-31 to the League V title, a 27-10 record and a bid to the state tournament. Cunningham is assisted by Brian Threatt and J.C. Eubanks. Mike Lucas is the P-31 athletic officer.
BHS football, cheer,
IL girls most improved
The Buford High School football team and the BHS Jackets' cheer squad along with the Indian Land Lady Warriors' basketball squad are the most improved teams for 2007.
The BHS football team of coach Mike Wells made a complete turnaround from the 2006 season.
The Jackets, 1-9 in 2006, rebounded to go 6-5 with three straight wins to cap regular-season play. A highlight of the Jackets' season was a 19-7 home win over Class A Division I state champion Chesterfield High School. BHS finished third in the Region VIII-AA race and earned a Class AA Lower State playoff berth.
The Lady Jackets of coach Julie Thompson captured the school's first-ever Class AA Lower State cheer championship.
BHS, in a rebuilding season with the loss of 11 seniors, placed third overall, its best-ever state finish. The Jackets won the Region VIII-AA cheer title for the second straight season. Buford's cheer squad tied for sixth in the Class A-AA state field in 2006.
Coach Tamara Jacobus' Lady Warriors fashioned a 20-7 mark. The Indian Land girls' title run included the Class A Upper State title after a regular-season runner-up finish in Conference III-A.
Jacobus is assisted by Chauncey Tims. Indian Land went 15-6 in 2006-07.
Warriors' Harris, Scott
The sportsmanship winners are Indian Land High School's Wes Scott and Jean Marie Harris.
Harris, in a classy manner, led the IL Lady Warriors to the Class A Upstate crown in girls basketball and a bid to the state title game.
She was The Lancaster News' Player of the Year for girls basketball, averaging 18.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.2 steals and 4.4 assists per game. She scored 1,615 career points. Harris was also the IL girls' track MVP last spring.
Scott, a standout in track and cross country, placed third in the Class A state cross country meet last fall. He was considered a top contender for the state title, but an injury hampered his determined title run. He showed class in congratulating the winners. Scott was also the MVP and an all-region pick in boys' track.
In cross country, he earned all-region and the team's most outstanding runner award.