LSU’s Pontiff casts spell in tourney

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 25, 2000

LSU waved its magic wand, better known as &uot;Wally Pontiff,&uot; in the very first inning of its SEC Tournament title showdown Sunday against dangerous Florida. In the Hoover, Alabama meet, the Tigers walloped the Gators 9-6 for the title, but had it not been for freshman Pontiff’s first-inning grand slam it might have been different.

Skip Bertman’s Tigers have indeed been imposing this college baseball season, as has coach Pat McMahon’s Mississippi State Bulldogs, who slumped at a bad time, losing consecutive games to Alabama and Georgia early in the SEC tourney. But in the tournament, LSU and Florida each won three straight, and were surely the class of the always-impressive SEC baseball showdown where major league prospects parade.

A college baseball NCAA regional will be held in Starkville this weekend, and State is in it, thanks in part to its host role. But also because the Dogs were plenty potent during the regular season. Losing two straight didn’t hurt State’s chance to be the No. 1 seed in their own tournament, though.

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The 12th-ranked Dogs grapple potent South Alabama in the Starkville tourney Friday. Tulane, the No. 2 seedand 37-20-1 on the season, will play No. 3 seed Notre Dame in tomorrow’s 2 p.m. contest. From here it looks like the Bulldogs have a good chance to take the Regional.

LSU faces Jackson State in a Regional at Baton Rouge, and that oughta be something.

4 Craig Langnes, the &uot;Big Mac&uot; in Natchez and Winnsboro McDonald’s restaurants, was a happy participant in the recently-played Joe Fortunato Celebrity Golf Classic who liked the opportunity because it was for a good cause.

Craig is athletically turned anyway, but it helped to know that money realized from the Duncan Park Fortunato Classic is earmarked each year specifically for seven Miss-Lou senior scholar-athletes who plan to attend college. That’s why he was a happy &uot;warrior,&uot; although he admits his play left a lot to be desired.

Craig owns the three Natchez McDonald’s and the one in Winnsboro, La.

I drink coffee most mornings with a bunch of fellas at his Tracetown store, so we naturally visit with him now and them. We, in fact, know that he’s currently having a new state-of-the-art McDonald’s constructed almost adjacent to the present one located right on the U. S. 61 frontage road. Inside Playland and all.

Back to the &uot;cause,&uot; Joe Fortunato is, and always has been, big on the Miss-Lou National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. In fact, Joe years ago thought about starting a NFF-HOF Chapter here and waded right in and helped start the one we now have. Likeable Bobby Marks is its President, and as such helps administer the scholarships, paid in part by the golf tournament.

4 Premo Stallone, renowned as &uot;the immovable object&uot; when he was catching for Sports Center during the old City Softball League years, also frequently goes to Branson. He and his charming wife Marian were there recently and ate at Peanut and Debbie Boyd’s Hungry Fisherman Restaurant. They, too, like everything about &uot;up there.&uot;

Premo and I, and several others, used to vie for the handball court at old Natchez High many years ago before school let in each morning. He was so tough to &uot;move&uot; then as he was behind the plate in softball. Ask Junie Anders about softball.

Having served as scorekeeper in the days of men’s softball back in the ’50s and beyond, I know first-hand what great pitching, hitting and fielding qualities those fellas possessed. Fast-pitch, fast league – that’s all there was to it.