Ridley clubs two homers in win to set up rematch with Green Wave

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Stevan Ridley didn&8217;t hit a homer all spring at Chester Willis Field and finished the season with only one dinger &8212; his final at-bat of the season.

So how do you explain his two bombs Saturday, each to some of the deepest parts of Chester Willis Field?

Go figure. Maybe that&8217;s why he says he&8217;s not a power hitter.

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That didn&8217;t appear to be the case in the Natchez Saints&8217; 16-4 win in four innings over WCCA in four innings at the Natchez Saints Classic. He mashed one over the fence in left center over the 370 mark in the first inning and parked one just to the right of dead center and the 390 mark.

The win sets up a rematch of the Saints and the Natchez Green Wave at 2 p.m. today.

&8220;I didn&8217;t really get pitched to most of the year, and I had a lot of strikeouts,&8221; Ridley said. &8220;I K&8217;d more last year than I K&8217;d in my career. It wasn&8217;t a secret I wasn&8217;t the best curveball hitter. Coach Matt (Mason) has worked with me. You hit the home runs when you&8217;re for base hits. You don&8217;t hit home runs when you swing for home runs.&8221;

Maybe that&8217;s something the standout athlete is learning this summer. It&8217;s early &8212; Friday was the Saints&8217; first game of the summer, and coaches and players have been holding workouts for only a couple weeks &8212; but maybe things are starting to take a turn for the better.

The first homer came on the first pitch he saw from Joseph Landry for a two-run shot, and the second came on an 0-1 pitch for a three-run jack. On Friday against the Green Wave, he singled in his first at-bat.

Ridley has realized he&8217;s not a power hitter and instead is more of a gap hitter. That&8217;s fine, too. So it&8217;s extra special when those gap shots wind up not coming back.

&8220;I stay on Stevan and tell him he&8217;s not a power hitter,&8221; Mason said. &8220;He drives the ball, and that&8217;s what he&8217;s capable of doing. Sometimes Stevan doesn&8217;t realize how good of a baseball player he can be. We&8217;ve worked with his mechanics at the plate, but a lot of it is Stevan getting focused at the plate and hitting the ball. He doesn&8217;t strike out a lot, and it&8217;s a matter of being focused.&8221;

It was enough to break the game open with WCCA early and impress himself a bit with the distance he put on each. Chester Willis isn&8217;t the pinball of a ball park you may find in other towns, including the power alleys that go on forever.

His first shot did just that, landing over the bulls-eye sign, on a hanging curveball.

&8220;This year, I guess it&8217;s my senior year and I&8217;m trying to make the best of it,&8221; Ridley said. &8220;Last year we started off the season and were in a pretty good slump. We&8217;re coming together as a team. We&8217;ve had a young team the last couple of years, and we&8217;re sneaking up on some people this year. I&8217;m looking forward to next year. My goal is to win a state championship in everything.&8221;

The two bombs didn&8217;t help the Rams, who struggled in the first two innings at the plate against Kolby Godfrey by striking out six times. The Saints led 7-0 after two thanks to seven hits off Landry before Corey Havard came in to get the final out of the second inning.

The Rams then gave up nine runs in the third and had to bring in Sutton Olive to finish the job, but not before Jordan Dossett&8217;s bases-loaded triple put the lead at 15-3. The Rams were without top pitcher Collin Dor/ for the weekend and got Landry on a day he didn&8217;t have his best stuff.

&8220;We had Landry, and it was going to be his game with Havard if he got in a bind,&8221; Rams head coach Ray Olive said. &8220;Landry just wasn&8217;t on. Everything he threw was belt high, and he wasn&8217;t hitting his spots. You have those days when you&8217;re not on. Between this morning and this game, errors were the story. We had one bad inning that cost us this morning.&8221;

The Saints had a better showing at the plate than Tuesday &8212; both against the Rams and in a 7-1 win over Silliman in the morning. Clint Easom doubled in Jordan Dossett and R.J. Fleming to start that nine-run third, and the team finished with 13 hits.

The Rams picked up three in the third and another in the fourth off reliever Parker Brumfield. Godfrey went the first two, leaving him open to start in today&8217;s rematch against the Green Wave after throwing only 19 pitches.

And the game isn&8217;t something either team will take lightly. Not Ridley, who had to watch best friend Braxton Fondren take a home run trot from the mound in Friday night&8217;s loss.

&8220;You can&8217;t get mad,&8221; he said. &8220;Even though it&8217;s summer ball, it&8217;s still business. We&8217;re coming out to beat them. There&8217;s no doubt in my mind we&8217;re as good as they are.&8221;

Said Mason: &8220;We&8217;re expecting (Godfrey) to step up and give us a good outing. They should be excited to get to play Cathedral. We&8217;re probably going to see them a few times this summer.&8221;