Freshman Boler to get ball vs. No. 2 Jags

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 27, 2001

[02/27/01] In Jamie Creel’s eyes, Justin Boler is a junior or senior on gameday.

The freshman left-hander will certainly need to play like one this afternoon.

After a six-game road swing to open the season, undefeated Vicksburg (6-0) gets quite a homecoming present: second-ranked Madison Central.

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While the Gators get the Jaguars, Boler’s getting the ball.

“I’m excited, but a little nervous,” said Boler, who comes into the game with a 2-0 record and a 2.80 ERA. “I have a good defense behind me so I’m just gonna throw the ball and let my defense back me up.”

Boler pitched against Clinton on Saturday, but left after the third inning with the game knotted at 2-2. He could have gone longer, but Creel had him on a pitch count.

The Arrows hit shot after shot into the outfield, but the speedy Gators’ fielders ran down almost everything. Creel credits assistant coach Jackie Williamson for the outfield’s preparation.

One advantage Vicksburg may have is playing the hard-hitting Jaguars in spacious Bazinsky Field. At 330 feet down the lines and 375 to center, the Gators’ home park is one of the largest around.

The Jaguars feature senior first baseman Chamar McDonald, who hit 11 home runs last year before signing with LSU, and MSU signee Brian Johnson in center field. Johnson hit .300 with six home runs as a junior.

Because of the big outfield and Boler’s ability to throw strikes, Creel did not hesitate one second giving the freshman the starting nod.

“I watched him Saturday (against Clinton) and he gave up three doubles in a row,” Creel said. “He never fretted, never smiled and never gave up. He just continued to put the ball where it needed to be. Mental-wise, when he steps on that rubber, he’s a junior or senior.”

Should the young lefty get rattled, senior catcher Mitchell Beauman has seen it before and knows exactly what to do.

“You have to be more like a teacher,” Beauman said. “Instead of sitting back there and letting the pitcher do his job, you have to keep him under control because he’s never been there before.”

Nerves should not play a part in any of the Gators minds, Creel said.

“We play Madison every year and even though they have LSU and Mississippi State signees, it really doesn’t mean much to our guys,” Creel said. “Our guys don’t even expect to be where they are right now even with the success we have had. They know they have to continue to work hard.”

For Boler, a good night sleep on Monday was all he was worried about.

“I hope I can sleep,” Boler said with a chuckle. “It’s hard, though, when you’re excited.”