All-Metro: Hoffpauir, Bowden take top honors again

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 17, 2003

VIDALIA, La. &045; With his season and career over at Vidalia High School, Barry Bowden can be honest.

His numbers from this past season &045; 12-0, 0.58 ERA, 135 strikeouts in 71 1/3 innings &045; could have been better.

&uot;My fastball increased in velocity a little bit, but I never had really a great game this year when both of my pitches were working,&uot; he said.

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Let the disbelievers start lining up.

It’s those numbers that earned Bowden his second straight All-Metro Player of the Year honors as he headed up a Vidalia team that won 27 straight games before falling in the Class 2A semifinals.

Vidalia head coach Johnny Lee Hoffpauir is All-Metro Coach of the Year for the second straight year. Both took the top player and coach honors in Class 2A as voted on by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.

That, too, is Bowden’s second straight honor as he will suit up with Southern Miss next spring.

&uot;It’s been a while since there’s been one as good as him (in the Miss-Lou),&uot; Cathedral head coach Craig Beesley said. &uot;They’ve had some good kids who threw well, but they didn’t have the control of both pitches like he did. Last year we scored a couple runs on him, but this year we didn’t have much luck.

&uot;His curveball shut us down that first night, and the second time he came in relief and was throwing 88 and 89. That shut us down all night.&uot;

There may be a bitter taste in his mouth after the loss to St. Frederick in the semifinals and his sore arm at the time of the season. The sore arm kept him from throwing against St. Fred after he threw in each of the three playoff games up until then.

He scraped his planting foot while on a personal watercraft prior to then.

&uot;It’s fine,&uot; Bowden said. &uot;I came out here (Thursday) and threw off the mound a little bit. It hurt in that Riverside game a little bit. After that when I played at shortstop, it hurt a little bit.

&uot;It could have been a lot of things. It could have been my foot, and it could have been the new mound we put it. It just could have been trying to overthrow. I don’t know.&uot;

Regardless of the ending, Bowden’s dominance on the mound helped the Vikings to two straight appearances in the final four of Class 2A.

The most telling statistic? In two season he walked 22 batters in 151 1/3 innings.

&uot;We’ve had some pretty good pitchers come through here, thinking back,&uot; said Hoffpauir, who carries 349 wins into next season. &uot;There have been some good ones, but Barry is right there at the top of that list. He’s a very exceptional young man.

&uot;That’s the stat that slaps you in the face &045; walks. Seven walks (this season) &045; that’s unheard of. He had some games where he struggled with his control, but if you look at the box score there were no walks.&uot;

It’s Bowden’s mound presence that was sometimes downright nasty in situations throughout the season. Hoffpauir recalled the first outing against Cathedral &045; a 2-0 Vidalia win &045; where Bowden bowed up and kept a good-hitting Green Wave team scoreless.

In the second Cathedral put runners on second and third with no outs, and that’s where they stayed thanks to three strikeouts. Later Cathedral loaded up the bases with no outs, and that’s where they stayed as Bowden struck out the next three.

&uot;You have to look in his eyes to see he’s about to make it tough on somebody,&uot; Hoffpauir said. &uot;I’d much rather have him on my team than against me.&uot;

Bowden admits there’s still some work to go on his repertoire, and he’s sure to get some lessons from coaches at Southern Miss when he arrives in the fall. Coming into the season he knew he had to work on his curveball and changeup, and that’s still an objective.

He was consistent 87 or 88 mph on his fastball while topping out at 89 several times midway through.

&uot;It’s still not where I want it to be,&uot; Bowden said of his curve. &uot;I threw the changeup in the mid-innings every game, but a couple tight games I didn’t want to throw it. I threw it a couple times.&uot;

Bowden’s bat also helped the Vikings start off on that 27-0 run as it got contributions from several people not named Bowden. It took a while to get consistency at the plate and on defense &045; Bowden worked with Mac Ware, Brett Hinson and Trey White on the mound &045; before the Vikings really took off.

But injuries slowed them at the end &045; Bowden’s sore arm and Trey White went down before the start of the playoffs with a broken arm as the result of a personal watercraft accident.

White, too, made first team All-Metro and All-State.

&uot;At the end of the season, we had some obstacles to overcome,&uot; Hoffpauir said. &uot;You lose your leading hitter, defensive stalwart in the outfield and the kid leading you in stolen bases and second in home runs, and that’s an pretty big loss for Double-A ball. We had to move four guys to fill his spot.

&uot;I don’t know of any 2A team since I’ve been coaching to have an undefeated season. To do it, you have to be good, you have to play hard and you have to be lucky. I know we played hard.&uot;

While the season was still a memorable one, don’t go casting off the Vikings next season because Bowden is gone. The Vikings have a solid group of sophomores who played key roles this year in the shadows of a senior group that won 100 games in their careers at Vidalia.

It’s all another part of one of the top public school programs in the state.

&uot;Those sophomore really came on, and there’s a couple more sophomores in the background that have to step up next year,&uot; Hoffpauir said.