Temperature dip must mean baseball season is starting to heat up|[01/09/07]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 9, 2007

In the increasingly competitive world of high school athletics, the line between the seasons blurs more with each passing year.

On Monday, however, the slap of horsehide on leather and the ping of aluminum bats left a distinct hint that spring was right around the corner.

Warren Central, Vicksburg and Porters Chapel Academy all took the field for the first day of baseball practice on Monday, all beginning the five-week preparation for their season-openers in mid-February.

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&#8220This week is getting back in the routine. We know we’re going to be sore,” Warren Central coach Randy Broome said. &#8220After that second week, it’s sure enough go time.”

High school baseball teams use an activity period during the school day to work on off-season conditioning. That is limited to approximately 45 minutes, though, making the first official day of practice a welcome sight.

Both WC and Vicksburg practiced for about three hours Monday and got in nearly as much work in a single afternoon as they do in an entire week before New Year’s.

&#8220It’s a huge difference. You get a lot more reps in every phase of the game, throw a full bullpen and get everybody prepared for the season,” Vicksburg coach Jamie Creel said.

Creel’s squad almost seemed ready to go on day one. The Gator pitchers each threw 64 pitches in the bullpen, while the rest of the team put in a full day of infield and outfield practice, as well as hitting drills and batting practice.

At Warren Central, Broome opted for a different approach. He said the Vikings spent most of their time on conditioning during the offseason, and didn’t focus in on sharpening their baseball skills until Monday. WC’s pitchers will start throwing in about two weeks, Broome said.

The different approaches are the result of two vastly different ballclubs. Vicksburg is a veteran team that returns most of its starting lineup from last season, while Warren Central needs to replace seven of nine starters – including its top three pitchers.

Vicksburg is also looking for pitching, but its problem is depth, not an overall lack of experienced talent. Left-hander Stanton Price, the team’s best arm in 2006, is back and so is righty Vernon Wolfe.

&#8220I think we’re going to be fine,” Creel said. &#8220The whole key is going to be our Nos. 3 and 4 pitchers. If we can find that to fill in the games during the week, we’re going to be in great shape.”

PCA had not practiced at all before Monday and spent about an hour hitting and throwing. St. Aloysius was out of school on Monday and will hold its first practice today.