Bobby Pope

Cavaliers once had baseball dynasty

Mount de Sales had one of the top high school baseball programs in Georgia back in the 1960s and 1970s.

The school, which was all girls until 1959, didn’t begin the sport until 1964. Just two years later, the Cavaliers’ baseball team had won its first state championship.

In fact, that state crown in 1966 was the first of eight in the ensuing 15 years.

All those titles came when the school played in the GHSA. Following the Cavaliers’ final baseball championship in 1980, Mount de Sales left the GHSA to join what became the GISA and remained in that association before returning to the GHSA in 2014.

The Macon Catholic school took home state baseball titles in 1966, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1976, 1977 and 1980.

Donnie Veal, who was a star athlete at Mercer in both basketball and baseball, was the head coach of the first championship team, leading the squad to a 20-7 record.

Bobby Huellemeier, who went on to play at Mercer, got two wins and a save in the state tournament, which was held in Thomaston. He got a 2-0 victory over Dacula, a save in a 7-5 victory against Calhoun and was the winning pitcher in the championship game, 2-1 against Meriwether. In 14 2/3 innings, Huellemeier had 28 strikeouts while giving up only five hits and one unearned run.

The Cavaliers most unlikely state title came in 1968, when they finished regular-season play at 1-10. Most of the losses, however, came against Class AAA teams, and they did not play a region schedule.

They made it to the state playoffs, held at Luther Williams Field, and lost 12-6 to Stewart County in their first game in the double-elimination tournament. They responded with four straight wins, beating Stewart 12-6, Fairmont 7-5 and then taking care of defending champion Putnam County twice, 5-4 and 1-0. Andy Anderson outdueled pitcher Charles Winslette, who would go on to play at Georgia and then become one of Georgia’s top high school football coaches, in the tournament finals. Sam Humphries was their head coach that season.

In 1969, another former Mercer athlete, Charles Stewart, took over as head coach at Mount de Sales and took the Cavs to another title.

That year, a different format was used where teams squared off in a best two-of-three series in the state semis and finals. They beat Dawson County 9-5 and 3-1 in the semis and then took two-of-three from Ludowici in the finals, winning the first 4-0, losing the second 2-0 and taking the rubber game 2-1 as Tim Jackson, who went on to play at Georgia, allowed just five hits to get the win.

In 1970, Billy Henderson, who started the athletics program at Willingham, moved over to de Sales to assist Mike Garvin in football and be the baseball head coach. He led the Cavaliers to championships in 1971 and 1972.

In 1971, Ludowici fell victim to the Maconites in the finals 3-2 and 5-0, and in 1972 the Cavs blanked Sardis Girard twice in the finals, 5-0 and 9-0. In both years Tim Jackson and Jimmy Viviani were the winning pitchers. Jackson pitched a no-hitter against Sardis Girard.

Following the 1972-73 school year, Henderson took over as head football coach and athletics director at Clarke Central, where he would go on to win three GHSA football championships.

Henderson’s replacement as baseball head coach was Chester Pierce, who had been a member of Mount de Sales’ first state championship team and had driven in the winning run in the title game that year. He remained in that position for 29 seasons before retiring. He coached state championship teams in 1976, 1978 and 1980, with runner-ups in 1977 and 1979.

His 1976 team took two of three from Roswell in the championship series, winning Game 1 2-1, losing Game 2 7-5 and taking the rubber game 6-5. Sophomore Steve Horne was the winning pitcher in both victories.

Horne and Bill Hurdle were the stars of the 1978 team, which might be the best of all as it finished with a 27-l record. Horne had a 10-0 record, while Hurdle was 11-0. The Cavs defeated Buford for the Class B title 14-7 and 7-4.

The final championship came in Class A in 1980 with a pair of one-run wins, 5-4 and 9-8 against Cave Springs. Since that last title in 1980, Mount de Sales has not won another state baseball championship, a drought of 36 years.

The baseball stadium at Mount de Sales was named in honor of Pierce earlier this year.

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