Bowden seeks better results in 2003

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 20, 2003

VIDALIA, La. &045; By most accounts, Vidalia right-hander Barry Bowden is soft-spoken, humble kind of guy.

It’s only when he’s on the mound where he becomes quite unfriendly.

But in those situations he still doesn’t talk much. He’ll give you the stare, get set and blow a fastball in the mid- to high-80s right by you.

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That, in turn, leaves most batters speechless.

&uot;He’s got a perfect pitcher’s mentality,&uot; Vidalia head coach Johnny Lee Hoffpauir said. &uot;When he gets on the mound, he’s a bulldog. He doesn’t show it by his mannerisms, you can see it in his eyes. Against Oakdale last year after an error, he looked at the guy at second and looked at the scoreboard.

&uot;When he looked back, you could see it in his eyes &045; that guy was not going to score.&uot;

The Vikings are hoping for more of those situations this year out of Bowden as prep baseball kicks off next week. Bowden, last year’s All-Metro Player of the Year and a University of Southern Mississippi signee, has spent the past four to six weeks preparing to improve an a junior season where he averaged almost two strikeouts an inning.

But don’t expect him to tell you much about how he’s going to do it.

&uot;He’s going to do much better than he did last year,&uot; said Bowden’s catcher, junior Chris Williams. &uot;He wants to work harder this year. The biggest thing about him is everybody expects him to be the best pitcher in the state &045; which he is &045; but he doesn’t let it get to him. He doesn’t get cocky and get the big head.&uot;

Bowden hasn’t worked much so far but has spent the last six weeks dodging inclement weather to prepare for the 2003 season. Named Class 2A Outstanding Player last season, he just wants to get rolling and get his strength back to where he was last season.

&uot;I’ll get there,&uot; he said. &uot;I’m not hitting my spots like I want. I haven’t thrown much. The rain is stopping me. My fastball is 85-86 (mph), and it’s not where I want it to be yet. I topped out (last year) at 90 and threw it 87 consistently. I’ve still got (the curveball) looking pretty good, but my change is coming around a bit.&uot;

Bowden’s fastball was perhaps the main reason for his 147 strikeouts in 80 innings last spring, but the changeup is getting most of the attention now. He toyed with it a bit last season, but Hoffpauir and assistant Tim Herndon are making it a priority this season.

That will go with his hard curveball, which looks much like a slider.

&uot;He hit 83 and 84 consistently (in a Wednesday scrimmage), which at this time of year is great,&uot; Hoffpauir said. &uot;We know what Barry is going to do. We’ve really worked on his changeup. He’s always had a great curveball. We threw the changeup last year but not a lot. In high school ball a kid like Barry can live without a changeup.

&uot;His changeup is about 10 mph difference, which is great. His changeup was coming in at 73 or 74 for strikes. We feel good about him throwing all of his pitches for strikes.&uot;

That’s due to the pinpoint control he demonstrated last year, which was the more impressive stat than his strikeout total. Bowden walked just 15 batters last season, and five came in one game against a tight umpire.

&uot;It’s not there yet because I haven’t thrown that much,&uot; Bowden said. &uot;(It’s) Just being able to locate it (changeup). I work pretty hard at it, and I’ve always had a pretty good control. It’s one of my best assets. I’ve got my changeup where I can control it better.&uot;

The changeup may be his surprise pitch, but everyone is expecting his fastball to climb a little bit higher on the gun by season’s end. That’s dangerous considering what Bowden did against the better teams in Class 2A in the postseason &045; he fanned 12 in the bi-district game, 13 in a second-round win and 15 in the semifinal win over Oakdale.

&uot;He hit the weights a lot during the offseason,&uot; Williams said. &uot;I think he’ll get it. He hasn’t opened up yet, but I hate to see it when he does. I’m looking forward to catching him this year. Knowing this is his last year, I’m going to make the best of it. We went to the state finals last year, and everybody wants to do it again this year. Barry is one of the people to lead us to it.&uot;

Which leaves the biggest problem for the Vikings &045; who will pitch on the days Bowden rests. Bryan Bennett was the No. 2 starter last season &045; his first year to pitch &045; but graduated.

Candidates include Mac Ware, Brett Hinson and left-hander Trey White.

&uot;Our problem is we’ve got to find a No. 2, 3 and 4 starter,&uot; Hoffpauir said. &uot;But they’re coming around. We’ll be OK.&uot;