Gators using summer for player development|[6/22/05]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Fresh off a near miss at going to the College World Series, Ole Miss designated hitter Justin Henry was getting a glimpse of the latest batch of Vicksburg High Gator baseball players.

Henry, who hit .398 this season for the Rebels who lost to Texas in three games in the Ole Miss Super Regional, was taking in a summer league game between the Gators and the crosstown Warren Central Vikings.

“They seem to be hitting the ball pretty good, that’s for sure,” Henry said.

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VHS baseball coach Jamie Creel, who is not the head coach for the summer team, also liked what he saw.

“This is the biggest group of eighth graders we’ve had. They are eight kids in this class who are going to help us,” Creel said.

Because at least five starters are playing for select travel teams this summer, the Gators decided to combine their junior and senior teams into one summer team.

That doesn’t bother Creel, who can see his young group having to step up in competition.

“We’re looking to find depth in all positions, especially pitching. After next season, we lose an outfielder and a shortstop, so you’re looking for the next starters.”

He may have found the future at shortstop with eighth grader Ryan Ferrington.

“Ryan Ferrington is as good a defensive player, at this age, as they come,” Creel said. “He’s making the plays Justin Henry made at this age.

“He’s right there with Justin defensively.”

They may have also found some more help at second base in Judd Mims, formerly of Porters Chapel. Mims was an All-Warren County selection this past spring, leading the way with 38 stolen bases. His older brother, Gerald, is the Gators’ starting center fielder.

“We just want to develop our young kids and I’m seeing progress in several of them every week,” Creel said of the Gators who have compiled an 10-5 record through Monday. “Our pitchers have thrown well, especially Andrew Brown and Kurt Cooksey.”