Owning the mound: Vidalia senior pitcher leads Vikings to close district victory

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 23, 2018

By Garrett Kroeger

The Natchez Democrat

VIDALIA — A little more than 48 hours after downing Delhi Charter School, 8-6, the Vidalia High School Vikings took on the Gators once again, this time at Cliff Merritt Memorial Field.

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The result was another win for the Vikings, but instead of relying on their bats to take home the victory, they leaned on pitcher Leo Lozano, who is also known as “PlayStation.”

“You know in a PlayStation game when you call an outside pitch and your player throws an outside pitch,” said Vidalia coach Mike Norris. “When we call an outside curve ball at the low part of the plate, that’s where (Lozano) will throw it. He rarely misses the spot. That’s why I call him Playstation.”

Thursday night, Lozano was throwing exactly what Vidalia wanted. When Norris called for a fastball, he threw it. When a curveball was needed, there it was.

With Lozano’s placement, the Vikings defeated the Gators, 2-1, to claim their second straight district victory.

While Lozano’s stat line wasn’t anything to die over — he threw 81 pitches and allowed nine hits in seven innings — he was efficient in Norris’ eyes.

“(The other team) will put the ball in play when Leo pitches,” Norris said. “But, when he needs to get a fly ball, he gets a fly ball. And when he needs a ground ball, he will get a ground ball.”

On the night Lozano only allowed one run, walked one batter and didn’t have any pitching errors.

However, Lozano couldn’t take all the credit for Vidalia’s win.

“I felt really proud of my defense tonight,” Lozano said. “They backed me up when I tried to throw strikes and (Delhi Charter) hit the ball.”

This year, Vidalia has been making changes throughout its lineup. One day one player might be in left field and the next day he might be at second base. All that Norris asks for is for his team to catch the ball whenever it comes its way.

Against Delhi Charter, the Vikings did just that except for once when their left fielder missed a fly ball in the sixth inning. That miss allowed the Gators to score.

“All I tell them is that I don’t want them to make the great play, but if it is hit at you, catch it,” Norris said. “Today they did just that.”

On a night when the pitching was effective, Vidalia’s hitting was as well. While the Vikings only tallied five hits, they made the most of them.

If the blue and white could get the type of pitching Lozano showed night in and night out, along with solid hitting, Norris believes his squad could beat any team in the district.

“If we come out, swing it well and throw it well, we can beat anybody,” Norris said. “Delhi Charter has been playing well. They swing it well and they play good baseball. You just never know. But I expect us if we come out and throw it well and get a few hits, we can be one of the best teams.”

Vidalia is now 10-8 on the season and 2-0 in district play. The Vikings will play the Gators once again at 4 p.m. this Saturday on the road. Going into that game, Norris knows his team needs to record more hits than they did Thursday. He knew he got lucky with Lozano’s performance.

“The difference (Thursday) was the pitching,” Norris said.