Creel will return to lead Gators next season|[05/19/08]

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 19, 2008

PEARL – Vicksburg coach Jamie Creel said he will be back in uniform for the Gators next season.

There was some speculation that Creel might leave the field for an administration position in the Vicksburg Warren school district after Saturday’s loss to East Central in the Class 4A state championship game, but the veteran coach said he will return for a 10th season.

“I’ll be back,” Creel said after the Gators received their runner-up medals and the state runner-up trophy at Trustmark Park. With six starters returning from a strong junior class, Creel could have the Gators back here next year.

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“You kind of wish you could fast forward some things so you could be back right here. But I was proud of what these kids accomplished this season,” Creel said. “It hurts now, but it should hurt.

“We learned what it takes to play in a big environment like this. We saw what it takes to win this thing and that means bringing a killer instinct. That’s something we didn’t have in these last two games.”

One Gator who won’t be back is standout senior Stanton Price. The left-hander led the Gators (28-10) as the team’s ace pitcher (11-2, 1.04 earned run average) and its leading hitter (.480, 9 homers, 39 RBIs).

“I feel really blessed to make it this far,” Price said. “We just ran into a really good team at the end.”

Price will be back at Trustmark Park on June 7 to play in the Diamond Club Class 4A/5A All-Star game. After that the Division 3-4A Player of the Year hopes to continue playing next season at the Division I level. He’s been offered a scholarship by Samford University, and Southern Miss has expressed interest.

“I’ll see what Southern does. We’ve been talking. I just have to see what the percentage is,” Price said.

The returning Gators should produce plenty of offense next season. Bowen Woodson, Trey Prentiss and catcher Blake Hynum each had two hits in the state series against East Central to lead VHS.

“We return a lot of people, so we’ll have a good team,” Woodson said. “We just got beat this week. They (East Central) out-hit us and they played better defense.”

“I think we’ll make a run at it again next season,” Prentiss said. “I’m looking to get faster, bigger and better and also cut down on my strikeouts.”

Another key would be better defense. Errors hurt the team early in the season, leading to a three-game losing streak. It reared its ugly head again at Trustmark as the Gators had nine errors in the two-game series, including five in the outfield. Prentiss, a left fielder, said Trustmark’s size played a role in the team’s misadventures.

“There was just so much space to cover. Really a lot more ground to cover than on a regular high school field,” Prentiss said.

And the field’s depth also hurt the Gators at the plate. Price boomed what would’ve been a two-run homer at either Bazinsky or Viking Field in the third inning. Instead, the park kept the ball in and East Central’s Taylor Bonifacio made the grab while bouncing into the right field wall.

“No doubt that was a chance for us to take a two-run lead but their guy made a helluva play,” Creel said. “Anywhere else, Stanton has a homer and we have the lead.”

Instead, the Gators remained in a 2-2 tie. East Central (28-9) then scored eight runs in a critical fifth inning to go up 11-2. They went on to close out the series with the 16-6 win.