Vikings get leadership support from sophomores in playoffs

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

VIDALIA, La. &045; It’s four seniors in Vidalia’s dugout that have gotten a huge chunk of the ink in the Vikings’ 26-0 season thus far, but head coach Johnny Lee Hoffpauir has been equally impressed this short postseason with the contribution of three sophomores.

Barry Bowden, Trey White, Ty Eicemann and Hank Marling have the blinders on poised for a Class 2A state championship title in this, their final year.

But second-year men Brett Hinson, Chris Ensminger and Reid Simpson have let their bats do the leading, as well.

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&uot;We’ve told them they’re not sophomores any longer, they’re ball players,&uot; said Hoffpauir, whose Vikings take on Riverside at 5 p.m. today. &uot;I’m glad to see their progression at this point of the year. They’ve really stepped into their roles.&uot;

In Monday’s 10-2 drubbing of St. Thomas Aquinas, Simpson went 2 for 3, Ensminger had a key double in the sixth and Hinson stole the spotlight going 3 for 3, including a grand slam in the first inning to put Vidalia up 7-0.

For the third straight postseason game Bowden will get the starting nod against the Rebels, who are coming off a surprising 14-5 upset of Episcopal, who battled the Vikings all season for Class 2A’s top spot in polls.

Bowden, a commitment of Southern Mississippi’s next year, threw just 70 pitches Monday and three days rest should be plenty for the righty, Hoffpauir said.

&uot;(Bowden is) ready to go, especially during this time of year,&uot; he said. &uot;He’s in great shape and is ready to roll.&uot;

As will be the case for the remainder of the year, Vidalia will be without White, its leading hitter.

The first case of woes all season spread through Concordia Parish when White broke his arm in a jet ski accident last weekend.

&uot;The kids realized they had to pick it up,&uot; Hoffpauir said. &uot;Losing Trey was huge, but you still got to play. I’m proud of the way everyone pulled it together Monday.&uot;

With the top half of the 2A bracket crammed with the majority of the better teams, today’s matchup might pit the best two remaining teams against one another.

The implications are not important to Hoffpauir or the rest of his Vikings, though. They are by all accounts taking it one game at a time.

&uot;We’re not looking at the state championship game right now,&uot; Hoffpauir said. &uot;Everything from here on out is gravy for these eight teams left. We’re getting down to who can handle the mental side of the game better.&uot;

A huge psychological advantage Vidalia has had on its opponents for the second consecutive postseason is playing before Viking crowds.

If the Rebels would have lost to Episcopal Monday, chances are the Vikings would be playing today’s quarterfinal game in Baton Rouge.

&uot;Maybe it’s a good omen. Good players make good coaches,&uot; Hoffpauir said. &uot;Mainly for us we’re done teaching the physical end of the game. Now we’re stressing to the players come to the ball park mentally prepared.&uot;