Concordia Recreation complex able to get junior college DH in
VIDALIA — As a former high school baseball coach, Johnny Lee Hoffpauir has worked on wet fields many times throughout the years, hoping to get games in.
Getting Saturday’s games in, though, was his toughest task yet, Hoffpauir said.
With the help of complex workers and volunteers, the Vidalia parks and recreation director worked furiously to get the scheduled doubleheader between Pearl River and Baton Rouge community colleges in at the Concordia Recreation District 3 complex. Wet weather left Cliff Merritt Memorial Field damp, forcing Hoffpauir and company to go the extra mile.
But the hard work paid off, as the two teams were able to get both games in. Pearl River earned a sweep Saturday with a 4-1 victory in Game 1 and a 9-1 win in Game 2.
“After all the years I’ve been doing this, this has probably been the biggest challenge, getting this ready,” Hoffpauir said before the doubleheader. “Luckily, I’ve had a lot of help getting it playable. I wouldn’t have given it much of a chance (Friday) night.”
After two weeks of wet weather that included snow and rain, the field was left wet throughout the week. Local showers Friday night seemed to hurt the teams’ chances of playing, but Hoffpauir and his helpers were able to overcome.
“Looking back on all the snow and rain, there was a lot of doubt,” Hoffpauir said. “I’ve been watching the Weather Channel for two weeks, and I’ve had a knot in my stomach for two weeks. It’s wasn’t until about right now that I’ve been able to breathe.”
Hoffpauir’s son Josh Hoffpauir, head coach at Pearl River, said he was glad the games were able to be played. The two teams squared off a year ago on the same field at the start of last season, and Josh said it was nice for his team to visit his hometown for the second year in a row.
“It’s always fun to come home and be in front of the hometown guys,” Josh said. “I just enjoy coming here, and we hope to make it a yearly event.”
Pearl River is now 4-0 on the young season after also winning its season-opening doubleheader Thursday. Josh said he’s hoping for continued success despite fielding a roster mostly of freshmen.
“We’re really young, but that’s no excuse,” Josh said. “Anytime you’re in junior college, you’re always going to be young. We have a ton of athletes and depth, as well as sophomore leadership on the mound. If the young guys can put it together and the mound stays healthy, hopefully, we’ll be able to make a run.”
One of those sophomores is Natchez native and Adams County Christian School alumnus Jake Brumfield. Brumfield was pegged as the team’s No. 1 starter, which meant he had to miss pitching in Saturday’s doubleheader after pitching in Thursday’s first game. He got the win in that contest, a 11-1 victory against Marion Military Community Institute, going four innings and giving up three hits and one walk while striking out five.
Even though he didn’t have a chance to throw Saturday, Brumfield said he’ll trade it for being the team’s No. 1 starter.
“I’d love to throw here, but getting the opportunity to throw opening day is 100-percent an honor,” Brumfield said. “I can’t turn that one down.”
Like his coach, Brumfield said he understands there’s a lot of youth on the roster, but he still has strong expectations for this year.
“We have a lot of new guys, but we have a lot of talent — more than last year,” Brumfield said. “If we can keep our head on straight and play ball the way we’re able to, other teams will have an eye-opener coming.”
Josh said he has high hopes for Brumfield as Brumfield enters his sophomore season.
“I’m expecting another good year,” Josh said. “I think he was 9-0 last year. You know what you’re going to get every time.”
BRCC head coach L.J. Dupuy said he and Johnny Lee go way back, and he was happy to be a part of Saturday’s event, even if the fields were less than 100 percent.
“It’s a nice facility,” Dupuy said. “We love the small-community atmosphere and excitement these games generate. It’s tough this time of the year, especially this year (with all the snow). We had the same problem in Baton Rouge. It’s in as good a condition as it’s going to be, and it’s still a nice facility.”