With championship win behind them, Vikings now face Invitational

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 13, 2006

The day couldn&8217;t have started any earlier or gone any later.

At 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Vidalia head coach Johnny Lee Hoffpauir arrived at the park. His players arrived 30 minutes later. A bus from Jena arrived shortly thereafter, and the two teams got started at 9 a.m.

Long story short, Hoffpauir and the Vikings turned off the lights at the park around 11 o&8217;clock that night. Do the math. That&8217;s lots of baseball, even more fried fish and french fries and all the leather and laces you&8217;d care to stand.

Email newsletter signup

But in case they&8217;re still hungry for more, next week the Vikings will do it all over again at the Vidalia Invitational.

&8220;It should be something,&8221; Hoffpauir said of the Invite, now in its third season. &8220;I&8217;ve (had) two days around the ball park, and it&8217;s been a long two days. But I think the teams have enjoyed it. It&8217;s been a good tournament.

&8220;I thank everybody that participated in the tournament, especially all the helpers. That&8217;s why I stay in this &8212; as long as I&8217;ve got good parents and helpers. We&8217;ll get it going again next week.&8221;

Games will begin Thursday and run until Saturday evening with a bracket that includes a return trip from Camden-Fairview, Ark., with head coach Greg Harris, a former head coach at Adams Christian. Spring Creek, Okla., will participate with its head coach who coached the Tecumseh team last season at the Invitational.

He&8217;s a friend of former Huntington head coach Sonny Clay, who brought his Bridge Creek, Okla., team to the first Invitational in 2004.

And with the Vikings winning the championship late Saturday with a rally in their last at-bat against West Feliciana, staying at the park for 14 or so hours may not be all that bad.

&8220;It was a great tournament,&8221; said Pineville head coach Darrell Wiley, who team lost to Vidalia in a semifinal. &8220;That&8217;s what you want to get out of tournaments &8212; more baseball.&8221;

Both games Saturday were worth sticking around for, and the Pineville game was big for the Vikings since they avenged an earlier 15-2 loss to Pineville in the Rebels&8217; tournament. Add to that Pineville left-hander Alan Sticker that they had seen before &8212; and struggled against &8212; and the Vikings turned to their defense and Will Thomas&8217; efforts on the mound.

Thomas threw all five innings and got the third out on a slow roller back to the mound that he tossed to Cameron Ainsworth to tag out the runner at the plate. It allowed him to get out of a jam that included walking two batters with one out.

&8220;They showed me some things tonight,&8221; Hoffpauir said. &8220;They showed me a lot of heart and character tonight. Will Thomas pitched a heck of a game. This was the Will Thomas we expected. He&8217;s our No. 1 guy.

&8220;I told him, &8216;We&8217;re letting the pressure of the situation get to us. Let&8217;s get out here, have fun and play.&8217; I think that&8217;s what happened. We let the game come to us.&8221;

The left-handed Sticker, armed with a filthy curveball, allowed only one h it after entering with runners on first and second and one out. He struck the next two batters out to end the inning.

Jordan Brewer singled to lead off the fourth and wound up at third after Sticker walked two batters. But an infield flyout ended the inning.

&8220;We were trying to save him for the last game,&8221; Wiley said. &8220;He&8217;s probably our best. He&8217;s got a slow curve, and he&8217;s got a quick curve. That&8217;s his best pitch. If he&8217;s on, he&8217;s tough. But we&8217;re trying to find somebody to throw strikes right now.&8221;

RISING UP A NO. 1 &8212; You can debate which came first, but it may be a little easier for Trinity Episcopal right-hander Kolby Godfrey to work with an improved defense behind him.

Maybe the defense has more confidence in the guy they&8217;re putting faith into being No. 1. But Godfrey tossed a three-hitter Monday against Centreville by locating his pitches &8212; especially the curve &8212; throughout the game. He didn&8217;t walk or hit a batter and faced 24 batters in diposing of the Tigers.

The Saints were one out away from a second straight error-free game before making an error. Godfrey then got the next batter to ground out to third to end the game.

It was the Saints&8217; first win in District 4-AA &8212; equaling their total from last season.

&8220;Kolby was getting his off-speed stuff over,&8221; Trinity head coach Matt Mason said. &8220;He&8217;s accepted his role as being the leader pitcher on this team. He&8217;s working hard at it, and he&8217;s developing into a pitcher now. It&8217;s a lot easier for him to go out there and pitch when he knows the defense will play behind him.&8221;

A SWITCHEROO &8212; It seems like old times from the days when Ken Beesley Sr. was the head coach and Craig was the assistant, but the switch of the two from coaching first and third while Cathedral bats this season is all about strategy.

Craig Beesley has taken over coaching first base this season, a move he attributes to his team&8217;s change in personnel. With a team that&8217;s younger and not as potent at the plate as in years past, there&8217;s more of an emphasis on baserunning.

No one&8217;s sitting back and waiting for the shot that seems to roll forever in the gaps at spacious Chester Willis.

&8220;We&8217;ve been coaching a lot more baserunning this year,&8221; Craig Beesley said. &8220;I like being over there at first base and being able to talk to the kids. I know we don&8217;t have the sticks we&8217;ve had in the past, so we&8217;ll try to move people over as much as we can. I like being at first base, and (Dad) is good at judging fly balls in the outfield.&8221;