AC, Trinity ready for action; East Central set to begin

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 31, 2005

NATCHEZ &045; Why wait until next March or April for young hitters to gain some confidence against some of the better pitchers in the state?

Next season, as baseball coaches will tell you, starts now.

Actually, it’ll start next week as Adams Christian and Trinity Episcopal will start their summer league campaigns and the East Central Dixie Majors begins its schedule in Vidalia. The two Natchez-based schools will start later next week, and the East Central league with players from Adams County and Concordia Parish starting Monday.

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And this is what summer is all about &045; who wins and loses is not nearly as important as sharpening your skills.

&uot;I just want the kids to play,&uot; said Bubba Griffey, who will coach the Trinity team this summer. &uot;I want them to stay together. This was our first year in double-A, and I just want them to play. I want them to compete and know how to compete. I know it’s going to be tough. We’re going to have fun.&uot;

The Trinity team may have the toughest schedule of anyone this summer, while the Rebels &045; who will play as the Adams County Rebels &045; will play a number of public schools. Griffey has the Saints in tournaments in Alexandria, La., Natchitoches and hosting a tournament June 10-12 at Chester Willis.

The Alexandria tournament will open the summer campaign for the Saints June 3-5. Nine teams will participate in the tournament in Natchez. The only other home game the Saints will play will be June 24 against Copiah.

All non-tournament dates will be doubleheaders.

&uot;Most of the tournaments we’re going to, we’re going to be playing hand-picked select teams,&uot; Griffey said. &uot;They’re going to be all 15- and 16-year-old kids, but it’s going to be like somebody in Jackson picking up 11 kids out of 15,000. This isn’t the first time we’ve done that with these kids. Last year we went to Brusly (La.) and should have won it.&uot;

The best thing about the summer for Griffey and the Saints is they lost only one senior from the spring in Zach Rogel and will have only one senior for next season in Kyle Dunaway. The remainder of the team was freshmen and sophomores, and the Saints struggled in District 4-AA with only one win.

Yet a productive summer where the Saints can develop some pitching and improve on defense could make a difference by the time the 2006 season arrives. Kolby Godfrey and Stevan Ridley were the team’s main two pitchers in the spring, and the Saints will need some depth.

&uot;I just want them to keep improving,&uot; Griffey said. &uot;The main thing in the tournaments is they’ll see all those good pitchers and when they see those in double-A, it won’t be a shock to them. I want to get some kids who haven’t pitched a lot to get accustomed to pitching. I want to get there where if we need them to walk on the mound, they’re going to walk on the mound. That hurt us this year &045; we didn’t have a lot of pitching depth.&uot;

With Adams County, assistant coach Ron Rushing will take the helm this summer for a team that will have the core of its pitching staff back but will have to replace some key hitters in the lineup.

To do it, Rushing said, the Rebels will step out of their normal routine and play a number of public schools this summer. They’ll start Thursday at home against North Pike and will play Brookhaven High, Franklin County and McComb.

&uot;I wanted to play some different people than what we play all season,&uot; Rushing said. &uot;We’ll play about 20-25 games. You’ve got to play to get better, and we’re ready to start playing.&uot;

The Rebels will have Timmy Foster available for most dates, although the senior-to-be is expected to suit up for the Mississippi Stars also this summer. He will be one of four seniors-to-be this summer, but the Rebels must find some pitching depth along with starters in center field, right field, second base and shortstop.

&uot;That’s what our goal is during the summer,&uot; Rushing said. &uot;We’ll try to put people in those spots. It’ll be pretty much the same kids. I told the kids we’re trying to improve on our weaknesses. It’s going to be laid back, but we’re still going to try to get some things done.&uot;

Numbers in the five-team East Central league are just about what they were last year &045; 64 are signed up as opposed to 67 last summer. The league has players from Concordia, Catahoula and Tensas parishes along with players from Natchez High and Cathedral.

Games start at 6 p.m. Monday in Vidalia.

&uot;When we started this, it was all school teams,&uot; league president Leo Eliser said. &uot;Two years ago we decided we’d draft everybody. We put everybody’s name in a hat, and everybody is pretty even.&uot;

Eliser will also coach a team of Huntington players this summer. That team will participate in the tournament at Chester Willis and other tournaments while playing games against Brookhaven Academy and Jena.

&uot;I’m going to take (the returners) and ask a couple of other kids to play with them,&uot; Eliser said. &uot;We’ll go play ball and have some fun.&uot;