Hoffpauir perfect fit for Palmer

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 15, 1999

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. While at Meridian Community College, head baseball coach Corky Palmer wanted Vidalia infielder Josh Hoffpauir when the senior helped lead the Vikings to the state championship in 1996.

Hoffpauir chose Northwestern State University and Palmer would go on to replace Hill Denson at Southern Mississippi.

Hoffpauir was named Newcomer of the Year in the Southland Conference as a freshman after batting .330.

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Hoffpauir finished with a .311 batting average as a sophomore, the third top hitter on a Division I-A team.

Hoffpauir was one of only two Northwestern players to participate in all 60 games for the Demons that season.

He played third base the first 30 games of the season before moving to second base.

Then came a coaching change as John Cohen took over for Dave Van Horn at Northwestern. Van Horn took the coaching job at Nebraska.

Hoffpauir struggled last year through an injury-plagued season, hitting .268. He still earned second team All-Southland Conference honors.

In January, Hoffpauir decided to transfer from Northwestern to Southern Miss.

&uot;I really enjoyed my three years at Northwestern, but I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to play at Southern Mississippi,&uot; Hoffpauir said at the time.

It was easy to see that Hoffpauir was not enjoying the game under Cohen, although you would never hear that from him.

If the fall is any indication, Hoffpauir and Palmer are sure to be a hit with each other.

The senior-to-be, who is eligible to play because Northwestern released him from his scholarship, led the Golden Eagles in hitting in the fall with a .420 batting average.

&uot;We’re just excited to have Josh,&uot; Palmer said. ‘He will start at third base for us, but he’s the type of player who can play at any position and not hurt you.&uot;

Palmer suffered a setback when Micheal Artman was unable to return because of his battle with cancer.

&uot;Josh is a blessing because we are so young on the infield,&uot; Palmer said. &uot;If our shortstop gets hurt, we can move Josh to that position and move someone else to third.&uot;

Besides Palmer, Hoffpauir will be joining former Northwestern assistant coach Lane Burris, who recruited Hoffpauir and is now an assistant at USM.

Palmer has also had Hoffpauir working in the bullpen, but seems relegated to keeping the senior in the infield.

&uot;Josh is still similar to what he was when we recruited him out of Vidalia,&uot; Palmer said. &uot;But one thing I didn’t realize is how athletic he is. And he knows the game of baseball. You can’t teach that. He has all the talent in the world. We’re fortunate to have him over here.&uot;

Hoffpauir hasn’t been the only local player working out in the bullpen at USM.

Monterey’s Joey Paul, who had a brilliant pitching career at Copiah-Lincoln, also had an outstanding fall.

Paul’s role will basically be similar to that of Natchez’s Danny Shupe, who graduated last year after a record breaking season on the mound for the Eagles.

While young, the Golden Eagle baseball team may just surprise some folks this season. But that’s what happens when you just keep on trying.

Joey Martin is sports editor of The Democrat. He can be reached by calling 446-5172 ext. 232 or at joey.martin@natchezdemocrat.com.