The four-won-won: Vidalia High quartet leading successful transition of program
Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 14, 2018
VIDALIA — For the four seniors on this year’s Vidalia High School baseball team, the past four years have been filled with good times, bad times and a few wild times, too.
As the quartet readies playoff season of their final year, it’s a time for the Vikings to look back on how each one has helped connect the pieces for a successful program.
Going back to freshman year, catcher Cam Rodgers said he was fortunate to have kept with the team.
Email newsletter signup
“Freshman year was definitely the hardest year, not only because it was the first year, but because all the people that were there had the wrong attitude,” he said. “It made me really upset and I had to grow tough skin really quick.”
Being tossed into such a new situation, Rodgers said, made him more aware of what greatness may lie ahead.
“I got blamed for a lot of things because people looked at me as just a young kid,” he said. “I wasn’t going to say it wasn’t fun, but it was definitely hard.
“That year was so eye-opening.”
Third baseman Leo Lozano joined the team as a sophomore, noting his experience has also been filled with an abundance of growth.
From his home in Mexico, Lozano moved to the Miss-Lou to live with his mother who teaches Spanish in the area.
“In Mexico it’s the same thing, it’s just a different environment and different people,” Lozano said. “One of the biggest things I love about this country is how people just come up and talk to you, and that’s how I feel about this team.
“Sophomore year was a big year, but baseball has been great here.”
Now, the Vikings (17-9, 8-0) are on the brink of winning a district championship for the first time in nearly a decade.
One of the biggest factors, senior Dylan Lowery said, is the addition of a new coach in Mike Norris.
Norris, who is now in his second year, helped change the program’s attitude from Day 1, Lowery said.
“We came from a team that if Coach Norris would have seen us, he would have hated us,” Lowery said. “There was a lot changed even at practice. It was like taking a team that didn’t know anything about the sport to having a team that knew more than the average high school players.
“He knows the sport more than anyone I know. He’s changed the way we all look at it.”
Lowery, who works with the team taking pitching records, said Norris also helped him when it came to personal goals, too.
“I’ve learned so much from Coach Norris,” he said. “He’s taught me that you’re not always going to get what you want in life. You have to take what you get and make the best out of it.”
Though Lowery wasn’t ever guaranteed to see much time on the field, he said he’s happy he stuck with the team along with his fellow seniors.
“I just couldn’t quit because I love the sport,” he said. “I’d rather sit the bench and know that we have the best nine players on the field and us win a bunch of games rather than me being out there and thinking we don’t have the best nine out there.”
Last year — the group’s junior year — Norris led the Vikings to their first home playoff game since 2009.
While Vidalia wasn’t able to make it past the first round, Lowery said he thinks the Vikings are just getting started.
“This is the best year so far,” he said.
For Vidalia’s final senior, Christian Fort, he agrees that the best was saved for last.
This season, Fort has been able to share the diamond with his little brother —Peyton Fort.
“This is the first time we have ever played together on the same team,” Fort said. “It’s been really fun.”
As Peyton already showed what he can do as a freshman, Christian Fort — who plays multiple positions including first base, second base and shortstop — said he never was intimidated, however.
“He’s a great pitcher,” Fort said. “I’m probably not going to play after this year, but I know he’s going to make it in college. I’m just proud for him.”
Fort said, too, that the prospect of this postseason seems like the best one yet.
If the Vikings are to win today’s district series finale with Mangham, they will clinch the district title.
The varsity game is set to begin at 4 p.m., weather permitting.
“I’m hoping we go a little bit farther in the playoffs than we have the last few years,” Fort said.
For Vidalia coach Mike Norris, he just wants his seniors to go out with a bang.
“They lead by example and always want to do the right thing,” he said. “I’m hoping we make a run to (the state championship in) Sulphur (La.) That would be the best present to give them.”