Slimmed-down Ruth tournament starts on Friday|[07/10/08]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 10, 2008

A smaller-than-usual Babe Ruth State Tournament for the 13- and 14-year-olds’ divisions gets underway Friday at Halls Ferry Park and Bazinsky Field.

Five teams are in the 13s division which starts at 10 a.m. when Vicksburg faces East Central at the Babe Ruth Field at Halls Ferry Park. The 14s division also starts at 10 with Long Beach meeting McComb at Bazinsky Field. The Vicksburg All-Stars follow at 1 p.m. against Gautier.

Two years ago in Meridian, the 14s state tournament had eight teams in it while there were seven in the 13s. Vicksburg coaches Jerry Gore and Mark Buys offered different opinions why the numbers are low.

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“I think USSSA is snatching up all the teams,” said Gore, who will manage the Vicksburg 13s. McComb, St. Martin and a team from District 1, which is Northeast Mississippi, also are in the 13s field.

There were only three teams in the 14s division before Long Beach made a late entry. The Long Beach program has been a staple of the Babe Ruth state tournaments.

“Usually Babe Ruth has as many as eight districts but I think the price of gas has something to do with it,” said Buys, who will manage the 14s. “The economic conditions are such that teams may want to stay home. Another factor, though, could be that some 14-year-olds teams can play up in the 15-year-olds’ division. “We still have some good teams in it and I think there will be some good competition,” Buys added.

The 13s tournament opener will pit the younger versions of two teams that met in May for the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A championship at Trustmark Park when Vicksburg plays East Central.

Gore said his team has been inconsistent.

“We can be good when we’re right. We didn’t do well in the USSSA state tournament but then we went down to McComb and won three games down there,” Gore said.

Buys feels he has a strong team that is well represented by players who have played summer ball with their respective junior varsity teams.

“This team is indicative of the quality of baseball in Vicksburg. All four schools are represented and we’ve got one pitcher from Tallulah Academy. A lot of them have been playing all summer with their high school teams,” Buys said. “We won the USSSA State All-Star Tournament, sweeping a five game series in three games.”

The 14s ace is rising Vicksburg ninth grader Cameron Cooksey, who was the top starter for the Gators’ junior varsity team this summer.

They also have Cody Waddell, who started for the Gators, while Matt Mims and Josh Eargle played for St. Aloysius. Jake Busby pitched for Tallulah.

“We’ve got good pitching, hitting and fielding. We’ve got a good shot at being one of the two teams that can advance to the Southwest Regional,” Buys said.