Mudcats, Venom eye region titles|[7/26/06]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Philadelphia may not have wanted to go to the Cal Ripken Southwest Regional, but the Mississippi Mudcats sure want to.

The 11-year-olds’ Vicksburg All-Star team will head to Denham Springs, La., today for the opening banquet and ceremony for the 18-team regional. Pool play begins Thursday at the North Park Recreation Center.

The Vicksburg Venom, an 8-year-olds’ tournament team, will play in the Cal Ripken Southwest Regional in Van Buren, Ark., starting Friday.

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The Mudcats are going to the regional despite finishing third on the field at the Ripken State Tournament.

Philadelphia beat the Mudcats 8-7, scoring a run in the bottom of the seventh to reach the finals against Orange Grove. After losing to Orange Grove 19-5 in the finals, Philadelphia told tournament officials they would not represent the state at the Southwest Regionals. Tournament officials at the time said it may have been a question of the Philly players’ eligibility.

The Mudcats were given the second slot for Mississippi. The regional will be the eighth tournament this season for Coach Marshall Upton’s team.

&#8220We’ve played a lot of ball. We could finish by playing over 45-46 games for the summer,” Upton said.

The team went 3-2 at the Ripken State Tournament and was 4-1 and finished second in the USSSA State Tournament in early July.

The competition figures to get a lot stronger in Denham Springs.

&#8220It’ll be tough,” said Mudcats assistant coach Joe Graves, a former head baseball coach at St. Aloysius and current director of the Vicksburg Parks and Recreation Department. &#8220We played Abbeville (La.) at a 9-year-old regional and they were very good. Good kids and very sound.”

The Mudcats open play Thursday at 1 p.m. against Little Rock, Ark. That will be their only game on opening day.

Pool play continues on Friday with two games. The first is set for 10 a.m. against Westside, La. At noon, the Mudcats battle Abbeville.

The top two teams from each of the four pools, along with the tournment host, will advance to a nine-team, single elimination tournament beginning on Saturday.

Upton feels the Mudcats can come up with a tournament run similar to the Vicksburg Patriots, the 9-year-olds’ All-Stars who placed sixth out of 18 teams at a Southwest Regional in Arkansas.

&#8220We look to handle our pitching better and by that, we want to keep it strong throughout the game. We found out at the state, pitching and catching wins games,” Upton said.

The Mudcats must also convert on offensive chances.

&#8220We left 15 men on base in a 3-2 loss to Orange Grove. We didn’t hit the ball against them. And then we didn’t make the plays in the game with Philadelphia,” Upton said.

The Venom qualified second in the state tournament and will travel to Van Buren, Ark., for their state championship series.

Coach Todd Boolos said some rule changes from league play to tournament play will be challenging for his young club.

During the season, games were coach-pitch, but at the Ripken Tournament, a pitching machine will be used. In addition, bunting and stealing will be allowed at the regional, but neither was allowed during the regular season.

The team’s game Friday night will be broadcast over the Internet at

Venom team members are Glenn Lewis, Matthew Register, Lane Hynum, Landon Little, Brayden Stokes, John Austin Burris, Dale Griffith, Liam Hopson, Tyler Smith, Brooks Boolos, Lee Simpson and LeDaryan Huband. Coaches are Chris Hynum, Paul Stokes, Bubba Little and Todd Boolos.

Mudcat team members are Mattthew Boggan, Zach Boyd, Cameron Upton, Michael Mason, Brandon Gates, Hunter Austin, Andrew Collins, Gabe Bufkin, Richie Bufkin, Chase Ladd, Stan Stanton, Matthew Jones and Reed Evans. Coaches are Upton, Graves and Stan Austin.