Hurricanes leading local charge into state tournaments

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 5, 2002

[07/05/02]When the Vicksburg Hurricanes suit up for their Cal Ripken 10-year-olds’ state tournament on Saturday in Meridian, they’ll be shooting for their second state championship in as many weeks.

Then the real decisions have to begin.

The Hurricanes won the United States Specialty Sports Association title last weekend and go for the Cal Ripken state title now. Both are regional qualifiers, but there is no doubt where the team will go should it win this weekend’s tournament.

“We’re definitely going to Cal Ripken. That’s who we are. We are Vicksburg Baseball and Cal Ripken,” said coach Randy Martin-Nez before his team left for Meridian.

“We’d love to be in the position to say which regional we’d like to go to, but we’re not fools enough to think it’ll be easy. We think we have a good shot at it, but we don’t want to jinx anything.”

The Hurricanes earned a berth in the USSSA regionals in Slidell, La. The Cal Ripken regional will be in Lake Village, Ark., north of Lake Providence.

They finished in last year’s state tournament, falling to Gulfport in the finals. Gulfport won’t be there this year, but Martin-Nez said the field will be challenging.

“Meridian will be really strong,” Martin-Nez said.

“Our goal, though, this whole year has been to win state. We finished second last year and have been working hard to finish first this year.”

The Hurricanes are ranked No. 1 in the USSSA 10-under AA national rankings.

The team gets a first-round bye in the 10-team tournament and will play Saturday evening. They’ll play the Meridian-Orange Grove winner.

The Hurricanes open a whirlwind July for local baseball teams. Vicksburg will send a team from all eight age groups into state tournaments over the next three weeks.

Regionals follow and, with a win there, a trip to the World Series to follow.

At Culkin, the Critters won their third straight state title and will play in the Super Series of Baseball 13-year-olds’ national championship July 13-20 in Tulsa, Okla..

Just seven years ago, Vicksburg sent one team from its association to a state tournament, but Martin-Nez said it is just a reflection of how far baseball in Warren County has come since 1995.

“Used to be when we would go to a tournament, it would be like, wow, Jackson’s going to be tough’, or Clinton’s going to be tough,’ ” Martin-Nez said. “Now when you go places, you expect Vicksburg to be tough.

“It’s a tribute to VBA and Culkin and all the high schools.”

The state tournament teams are:

The Mudcats, a team of 7-8-year-olds, and the Vicksburg Athletics 9-year-olds will start Saturday in Orange Grove on the Gulf Coast.

The Vicksburg Heat 11-year-olds will host the state tournament the only age group to host this year starting on July 12 at Halls Ferry Park.

The Vicksburg Barracudas 12-year-olds will play in New Albany starting July 12.

The Vicksburg Diamondbacks will play at St. Martin on the coast starting July 12.

The Vicksburg Rebels 13-year-olds will play in Clinton starting July 18.

The Vicksburg Raptors 14-15-year-olds will be in Corinth starting July 18.