Vidalia in rematch with St. Fred in 2A semis

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

VIDALIA, La. &045; Getting to Baton Rouge was the hard part.

Now it may playing there.

So that’s why the Vidalia Vikings hope to have a leg up on the rest of the final four in Class 2A as the semifinals get under way today at Episcopal High School. While last year’s visit to Episcopal turned up sour in the championship game, that experience may

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have been beneficial for coming back this season.

The Vikings will meet St. Frederick at 7 p.m. today.

&uot;I’ll tell you something &045; when you get down there you’ve got to beat the hype,&uot; Vidalia head coach Johnny Lee Hoffpauir said. &uot;With 15-, 16- and 17-year-old kids playing in front of a couple thousand people, you’ve got to keep the excitement factor under control. I think that’s what’s going to help us from being there last year. You want it to be like a vacation, but you’ve got to remember you’re there to do a job.&uot;

The job at hand is to come away with a championship, something the Vikings have done once in the program’s history. Last season was the first time it had been in the title game since the 1996 team that defeated Kinder for the state title.

But today’s game is most important. The winner of the Vidalia-St. Fred game will face the winner of the Ouachita Christian-Newman winner at 6 p.m. Wednesday for the championship.

&uot;We’ve got to win this one to get to the next one,&uot; junior hurler Mac Ware said. &uot;We’ve been there before. We know what we’ve got to do. We’ve just got to win the first one to go to the second one. You go out there and forget about (the atmosphere). You don’t let that get in your head.&uot;

The earlier meeting of Vidalia and St. Frederick may not be in their heads of the players and coaches, either. That game Barry Bowden tossed a two-hitter as the Vikings (27-0) downed the Warriors 8-2 in what was billed as a preview to the playoffs.

Boy, were they right.

&uot;I can’t even remember that game,&uot; Hoffpauir said. &uot;Everybody is 3-0 right now. They’ve improved, and hopefully we’ve improved. When I look back at that game, we had one big inning and then it turned into a close ball game. I told Coach (Todd) Moore after, ‘Coach, we’ll see you again.’ He thought I was joking, but they’re playing good ball. They had a big win over a good Oakdale team.&uot;

The Warriors (24-14) have done it with plenty of offense, including a crucial double from Jared Vincent to score the winning run against Oakdale Thursday.

Even though the Warriors were held to just two runs in the outing against Vidalia, they struck out just seven times against Bowden &045; a couple shy of his average.

&uot;I know they faced good pitching from Oakdale,&uot; Hoffpauir said. &uot;They can hit the ball. They can put the ball in play. We’ll have to play defense and rise to the occasion defensively. We’ve got to play well.&uot;

Speaking of pitching, the Vikings don’t know who they’ll throw today with a possible game less than 24 hours away if they win. Bowden has pitched nearly every inning in the three playoff games, and it may come down to the efforts of Ware and Brett Hinson to get through today or Wednesday.

Ware threw three innings in the Vikings’ win over St. Thomas Aquinas May 5 but has tried to keep sharp since then.

&uot;This time of year your pitching has to step up,&uot; Hoffpauir said. &uot;Our team ERA is 0.96. Mac pitched against St. Thomas, and Friday we came out and had an intrasquad scrimmage where they were on 50-pitch pitch counts. They throw mound regularly. They’ve been throwing and keeping sharp.&uot;