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Summer baseball starts heating up

[5/27/04]The Vicksburg High baseball team needed some challenges for the summer.

VHS coach Jamie Creel wants his team to have something to play for every time they come out.

“We’ve been playing in the summer leagues and just play games to play games,” Creel said. “It really doesn’t bring out the competitive nature we’re looking to try to build in these kids. What we want to try to do is go out and compete for a tournament championship every time we go out, and try to build some fire and some competition into these guys.”

He’s gotten his wish.

The Gators’ summer team will compete in five tournaments in six weekends against some of the toughest competition both inside and outside of Mississippi.

Vicksburg opens with a tournament in Chattanooga, Tenn., that starts today and runs through Sunday. The 16-team field features some of the region’s top talent. The teams will include the Georgia Bandits, the Chattanooga Cyclones and even the Hardball Warehouse Red Sox, coached by former Atlanta Braves players Terry Pendleton, Mark Lemke and Greg McMichael.

“We’re looking forward to competing in it,” Creel said. “There’s going to be a lot of teams in it, and a lot of teams that are going to be better than us. We’re going to see exactly how we stack up against some of the best people in the South and Southeast.”

The Gators follow that up with a trip to Southaven on June 4-6 for the Huey’s School’s Out Celebration, featuring teams from Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi.

“Some of these guys haven’t competed for anything,” Creel said. “And when they get in there to try to compete for something, they’ve never done it and they don’t know how to do it. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Warren Central, on the other hand, will take it easy and have fun in a normal summer league schedule.

WC coach Randy Broome plans to move players around and try different pitchers on the mound. That strategy worked out last year and got the Vikings a pair of helpful arms in the bullpen during their playoff run to the South State championship.

Warren Central discovered both Jake Turner and Allen Carlisle by giving them a chance during the summer. Turner became the Vikings’ closer, throwing 17 innings with a 1.65 ERA and six saves. Carlisle became a helpful arm with a 2.92 ERA in 12 innings pitched.

“That’s the fun part about it,” Broome said of the summer. “They can go out a little more relaxed and maybe focus a little more on those mechanics instead of, I’ve got to throw this pitch right now to get this guy out.’ We definitely use the summer more for training, trying to stay in baseball shape.”

The Vikings will compete in a wooden bat tournament at Madison Central and will host their own tournament at the end of the year.

Warren Central’s first game is set for June 3 at 5 p.m. against Mendenhall.

Porters Chapel has not completed its summer schedule, but the first game is at home on June 4 at 7 p.m. against Ouachita Christian. The Eagles also will take part in a Clinton tournament on June 11-12 and a Monroe tournament on June 25-26.