County players, teams putting up eye-popping offensive numbers|[03/14/07]
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Before the start of each baseball season, teams usually buy a couple dozen baseballs to make it through the year.
At the rate some of Warren County’s players are pummeling them into submission, it might be time to order a few more boxes.
As the season hits the one-third mark at spring break, a few of the county’s top players are on pace to finish with eye-popping stats. St. Aloysius second baseman Pierson Waring is hitting over .700 through 14 games. Vicksburg’s Tyler Wells has five home runs and 21 RBIs in 11 games, while teammate Stanton Price is hitting .568.
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And then there’s Porters Chapel, which has crushed everything in sight. The Eagles are hitting .391 as a team and outscored opponents 147-19 while winning their first 12 games.
“It’s just seeing the ball real well, focusing every at-bat and taking every at-bat seriously,” Price said. “You’ve just got to stay hungry and do your best to help the team win.”
At St. Al, Waring – in his third season as a starter, but still only a freshman – has been a dynamo at the top of the order. Batting second, he went 16-for-22 in the Flashes’ first 10 games and had four hits in a weekend sweep of Madison-St. Joe and Raymond. Although it’ll be hard to maintain a .727 average all season, it did help the Flashes to a 10-2 record.
“So far this year, he’s been our sparkplug, no doubt about it,” St. Al coach Clint Wilkerson said. “He’s a great baserunner, too. He has excellent savvy and he’s very good at taking extra bases.”
While Waring has been creating runs, the middle part of Vicksburg High’s order has been driving them in at a prodigious rate.
Wells, an Ole Miss signee, already had 21 RBIs and was fast closing in on last year’s career high of 28. Since 2001, only two Vicksburg High players have surpassed 30 RBIs in a season. Justin Henry and Paul Gorney both had 36 in 2003.
“I changed my approach. I’m working on it every day in the cage and on the field,” Wells said. “Last year was more going up there and just trying to hit the ball. Now it’s knowing what I’m good at and working on strengths and weaknesses.”
Wells was hitting over .600, but VHS coach Jamie Creel said opponents have begun to pitch around him. It is forcing Creel to juggle his lineup a bit to try to get Wells more pitches to hit.
Behind Wells, who bats third in the Gators’ order, Price has also gotten off to a good start. Although Wells has taken most of the RBI opportunities from him, Vicksburg’s cleanup man has seven doubles.
Vernon Wolfe, VHS’ No. 5 hitter, also was batting over .500 although a hamstring injury kept him out of the lineup for the first six games of the season.
Thanks to the efforts of the trio, the Gators are averaging nine runs per game as they head into this week’s Ouachita Parish tournament in Louisiana.
“It’s been tremendous. All you’ve got to do is set the table for guys like that and they’ll get them in,” Creel said. “Their approach right now is an awesome thing to watch. They’re a lot more selective. They’re a lot better hitters at this stage of their career than they were as freshmen or sophomores.”
Likewise, at Porters Chapel, experience has been a huge asset.
Eight starters returned from last year’s MPSA Class A championship team, which was a potent lineup in its own right. PCA hit .379 as a team and scored 318 runs in 37 games in 2006.
So far this year, the Eagles are on pace to equal those marks. Hayden Hales is hitting .621, and several Eagles are hitting over .400.
But the offense is not the only side playing well. Eagles’ pitchers are equally as dominant, with a team ERA of 0.74.
“Our biggest thing is just experience. Our guys have been playing baseball since they were 5 years old,” PCA coach Randy Wright said. “Experience makes all the difference in the world. Every one of my starters has won a state championship or been in a state championship series.”
Wright said the experience helped some players quickly adjust from basketball to baseball, and others get their timing down faster than other teams might. He also hopes it helps throughout the season, not just through the first month.
Baseball is a game of peaks and valleys, Wright pointed out, and he’d rather play well in April and May than in February and March.
“I’m not concerned with how we’re doing now. I’m concerned with how we do when we get to the district games and the playoffs,” Wright said. “I’m much more concerned with our finish than our start.”