Patriots looking for sign of success|[7/20/06]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 20, 2006

For the Vicksburg Patriots 9-year-olds’ All-Star team, it’s all about the sign.

At every practice at Halls Ferry Park, the team members look at the signs adorning the fences heralding former Vicksburg youth teams that excelled on the playing fields.

&#8220They see those signs and the names on them and they want a sign,” said Coach Charlie Camillo, who will guide the team into the weekend’s Cal Ripken Southwest Regional tournament in Van Buren, Ark.

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The Patriots will get a sign for finishing second in the state tournament and advancing to the regionals. Now it’s time to have some fun.

&#8220It will be cool,” said player Ben Welp, who pitched a key game against Philadelphia in an elimination game at the state tournament.

The team won’t find out who they are playing or at what time until a pre-tournament banquet tonight. Players care little about who their opponent is.

&#8220We’re gonna play some baseball,” said wide-eyed Grant Camillo, who had a .380 batting average at the state tournament. &#8220We are all very excited.”

One thing the team hopes for is a lot of late-starting games. In afternoon and night games, the team went unbeaten at the states, but its lone loss came in a game before noon.

&#8220We like to have fun in the hotel,” said player Chris Prentiss in a possible explanation of the team’s troubles in early games.

The Patriots lost to Bay St. Louis at the state tournament to earn a runner-up finish. Pitcher Lee Middleton shined during the states with a 3-0 record and 21 strikeouts in 12 innings of work.

The team also features plenty of firepower at home plate, and they love to see fastballs.

&#8220We hit fastballs really well,” said Middleton, the team leader who can play every position on the field and is, in the coach’s opinion, the best 9-year-old catcher in the state.

Team members are Middleton, Connor Smith, Prentiss, Jacob Breeden, Hunter Lyons, George Tzotzolas, Austin Magoun, Mario Doyle, Drake Dorbeck, Derek Dolan, Welp, Brock Barnes and Grant Camillo. Coaches are Jay Middleton, Ken Lyons and Charlie Camillo. Joe Holloway also helped coach the team.