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Vidalia’s Ozburn picks up win in first start of season

VIDALIA — It’s been about a year since Mason Ozburn started a game at pitcher for the Vidalia Vikings.

But if Saturday’s game against Marksville was any indication, the layoff didn’t slow him down.

Ozburn pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowing just three hits and two earned runs in Vidalia’s 11-7 victory that clinched a Class 3A playoff spot.

It was Ozburn’s first start of the season after he broke his ankle in a pickup basketball game before the season began.

“I’ve been waiting all season for this,” Ozburn said. “I was a little nervous at first, but I was excited to see all the fans out here supporting me.”

And no one was happier to see Ozburn performing well on the mound than Vidalia coach Johnny Lee Hoffpauir, who has been piecing together a pitching staff all season with his No. 1 pitcher out.

“We can breathe a little easier now,” Hoffpauir said. “He did a great job and if he could have gotten a little help from the defense it would have been a lot better.”

The Vikings made five errors in the game, and only three of Marksville’s seven runs were earned.

“We won’t make it far in the playoffs making lots of errors like that,” Hoffpauir said. “But the kids have battled all year. We’ve kind of had to use a band aid approach, and the kids have risen to the occasion.”

After a scoreless first inning, Vidalia jumped out to a lead with four runs in the bottom of the second.

Caleb Vines drove in the first run of the game with a single and Seth Barlow followed with a two-run double.

Barlow then scored the fourth run of the game on an error.

Vines put another run across the plate in the third inning with his second RBI single of the game to give the Vikings a 5-0 lead.

But the Vidalia defense was shaky in the top of the fourth inning, and allowed Marksville to get back in the game.

Three Tiger runs came across the plate, but only one was earned thanks to two Viking errors in the inning.

However, Vidalia’s bats made up for the sloppy defense in the bottom of the fourth inning, as they pounded out six hits and scored six runs to put the game out of reach.

Nate Bozeman drove in the first run with a single and the next two runs scored when Marksville second baseman Cody McNeal booted a hard-hit ground ball.

John Brixey followed that up with a two-run single and B.J. Neeley finished up the scoring with a RBI single of his own.

Marksville got one run back in the top of the sixth inning on a RBI single by Jake Dunbar and then made the game interesting with three runs in the top of the seventh off of relief pitcher Trey Lillie.

Two of the runs scored on Viking errors and the third run came home on a Dunbar single.

However, Lillie settled down and induced Brandon Speer to ground out to end the game and clinch Vidalia’s playoff spot.

Vidalia (14-7, 8-1 District 3-3A) has guaranteed at least a runner-up spot in district, but the Vikings have their hopes set higher than that.

Vidalia is tied with Bolton for first place in the district, and the Bears coming to Vidalia to take on the Vikings at 5 p.m. Monday.

“We’ve got a big one on Monday night,” Hoffpauir said. “We’re tied for the district championship right now, but our goal is to win it.”

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