Prep notebook: Invitational time to catch up with old friends

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 30, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; It was to their head coach&8217;s chagrin that Camden-Fairview&8217;s Cardinals didn&8217;t make it to the Vidalia Invitational last spring.

Not only for head coach Greg Harris, a former coach at Adams Christian whose friends in the Miss-Lou include Vidalia head coach Johnny Lee Hoffpauir, but his team as well. This year, Harris said, the tournament was imperative with the young club he has and the good baseball it needs to see this spring in Arkansas.

And seeing old friends sure doesn&8217;t hurt.

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&8220;Johnny is a good friend of mine, and I have a lot of respect for what he does with his kids and does with his program,&8221; said, Harris, whose club participated in the first two Invitationals. &8220;I&8217;d like for my kids to see this. We&8217;re a young group without experience.

&8220;We can come down here and try to improve ourselves, go back home and nobody can see all of our weaknesses that we&8217;ve got. We try to come down here and correct them.&8221;

Harris&8217; Cardinals &8212; armed with only two seniors &8212; improved a bit on Saturday with a five-run sixth that beat Franklin Parish. And it was good to get in a game against Hoffpauir&8217;s bunch, who handed the visitors a 6-0 defeat in their first game on the schedule.

Not that they were rude hosts. Business, after all, is business.

&8220;He took a year off, came back this year and it&8217;s always fun to coach against Greg,&8221; Hoffpauir said. &8220;He and I have been friends for years. You know his team is going to be well-coached. I&8217;ve been playing him for years. We&8217;ve had some battles.&8221;

If there&8217;s one play Harris&8217; club can take note of from Friday&8217;s game, it was the Vikings&8217; play at the plate that gunned down a baserunner on the Cardinals&8217; only hit of the game.

Matt Young doubled to the fence in right, and Harris tried to send courtesy runner Brian Rich home from first base on the play. Shayne Knapp hit Will Thomas on the cut, and Thomas fired a strike to catcher Cameron Ainsworth for the tag and the third out of the inning.

&8220;That&8217;s what we preach and preach,&8221; Hoffpauir said. &8220;That&8217;s probably the seventh or eighth kid we&8217;ve thrown out at home this year. I told somebody we&8217;ve never had that before. I would have sent (the runner). You need to on that play.In high school baseball that (play) doesn&8217;t too many times. And Cameron does a great job of hanging in tough at home plate.&8221;

The rest of the Invitational went off well, save for the rain that prevented the Vikings getting in the final game against Franklin Parish. Inclement weather loomed for most of the day Saturday, but the Cardinals were able to get in two &045; a 13-3 loss to Rayville in the morning before downing Franklin Parish.

The Oklahoma team &045; Plainview High School &045; got its third game in Friday. It&8217;s been two years since former Huntington head coach Sonny Clay brought his Bridge Creek, Okla., team to the Invitational, and Plainview was the replacement.

&8220;I wish he would,&8221; Hoffpauir said. &8220;He keeps telling me he&8217;s going to come. I&8217;d love to have him back, and Coach (T.D.) O&8217;Hara said he&8217;ll be back. This is great for the economy and good for the town of Vidalia. I couldn&8217;t do it if I didn&8217;t have great support here.&8221;

Harris said it may be hard for his team to return next year since it will likely drop down to a lower class. But he still enjoys the personal side of the trip to an area he said he still tries to keep tabs on.

Including his old school.

&8220;I was pleased to see AC named the ball field after Papa (David) New,&8221; Harris said. &8220;I know he did a lot for the program. I think that&8217;s a great tribute for Mr. New.&8221;

WHAT ARE FRIENDS FOR? &045; This wasn&8217;t how Trinity head coach Matt Mason wanted to be treated by his friend when the Saints faced Brookhaven Academy on consecutive days.

The Cougars beat Trinity 15-1 in four innings Tuesday and 11-1 in five innings Wednesday. Cougars head coach Stephen Cooksey was head coach at Amite School Center three years ago with Mason as his assistant.

The two were on the winning side, ironically, of a controversial home run against Trinity at the District 7-A tournament. The shot went well over the foul pole into the woods, and umpires called it fair.

&8220;We do a lot of the same things,&8221; Mason said. &8220;We both believe defense is going to win ball games and you score runs when you can. They played well on defense. They made some good plays with runners on, something we weren&8217;t able to do. And (the game) got out of hand early.&8221;

But Mason&8217;s old head coach can tell things weren&8217;t as bad for the Saints both times as the scores would indicate. The Cougars put up 10 runs on the board in the second inning Tuesday with the Saints having a lapse on defense &045; something they&8217;ve done little of this season.

The losses dropped the Saints to 1-4 in District 4-AA. They won only one district game last season.

&8220;Coach Mason has done a great job here,&8221; Cooksey said. &8220;He&8217;s got a lot of young guys, and I really feel his program has grown up. He and Coach (Bubba) Griffey do a lot of work with those young guys. I think they&8217;re a very sound baseball team.&8221;

TURN UP THE HEAT &045; It starts this week in earnest for the Adams Christian Rebels with 3-AA play against Riverfield Tuesday and Friday. This year, it seems, there may be a legitimate race to the finish.

Last year AC and Prairie View were a level higher than everyone else. Central Hinds and Riverfield each beat the Spartans already.

&8220;I think it&8217;s pretty even this year,&8221; Adams head coach Ron Rushing said. &8220;Prairie View lost five seniors, but they picked up a couple from Bastrop. You can bet they&8217;re going to be good. Copiah looks good. I really think both spots are going to come down to the last week of the district series.&8221;