CHULA -- The Tiftarea Academy Lady Panthers softball team suffered a blow Tuesday afternoon when five team members, traveling in two separate vehicles, were injured when the two vehicles collided. The accident occurred shortly after the Lady Panthers had defeated the Lady Valiants of the Valwood School 23-0 in GISA Region 3-AA action.

The accident has caused a re-shuffling of the 2005 schedule, according to Tiftarea head softball coach Darby Veazey.

"We have decided to cancel Saturday's game against John Milledge and Monday's game against Southland," said Veazey. "We won't reschedule the John Milledge game, but we may try to re-set the Southland game."

Starting senior pitcher Jennifer Cone and senior outfielder Kayla Franklin were the most seriously injured of the five. According to Veazey, Cone is suffering with a sore back and neck, while Franklin, who was ejected from the vehicle she was in, has 34 stitches in her right leg, to go along with several other cuts and abrasions. The other three players, Laykin Saunders, Nicole Burke and Jessie Brooks, were not seriously injured.

"We have no pitching," Veazey said, explaining that Franklin is Cone's backup on the mound, in addition to being the starting centerfielder. Brooks is third on the depth chart, but the eighth grader has only one inning of varsity pitching experience.

"Jennifer has been told 'no ball' until a week from Monday," said Veazey, adding that her starting pitcher is "more sore than anything."

Despite Franklin's injuries, she expects the Nashville product to return to the lineup in a couple of weeks.

"Kayla is so tough," said Veazey, "she never shed a tear through this whole thing."

The coach is thankful that the injuries were not any more severe and expects the squad to rebound from the setback.

"We'll pull it together in a couple of weeks," she said. "We had a good practice today (Wednesday). I debated whether or not to practice, but I decided that we needed to be together. We practiced with a lot of spirit and intensity."

Veazey has still not decided if she will attempt to reschedule Tuesday's region game with Fullington Academy in Pinehurst. In addition to the Lady Trojans, the Lady Panthers have remaining on their region slate Brookwood, Southwest Georgia Academy and Valwood.

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