End of an Era: Hurricanes leave a memorable legacy

Published 12:01 am Monday, May 31, 2010

Ten years ago a group of parents got together with an idea — take their sons and mold them into a championship-caliber baseball team.

Starting as 8-year-olds, the team would become a machine called the Vicksburg Hurricanes. They’d win tournaments and titles across the country, all the while forging bonds that would make them as close as brothers.

On Friday, those same parents sat in the stands at Trustmark Park and watched the culmination of long hours on the diamond and the road.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

As St. Aloysius dismantled Myrtle 18-1 to win its second consecutive Class 1A championship, eight of the nine players on the field for the final out were veterans of the Hurricanes. Seven of them were seniors playing their final high school game and fulfilling the vision laid out years earlier.

“Not yet. I know it’s going to be hard when it does sink in because I’ve been with these guys since I was nine,” said second baseman Justin Rushing, one of five St. Al players who are considered original members of the Hurricanes. “It’s a perfect ending.”

Ryno Martin-Nez, another original Hurricane, agreed.

“We started as state champions and finished as state champions,” he said.

From 2000, when they started playing together as 8-year-olds, until they disbanded in 2007 the Hurricanes were a force in youth baseball. They won a total of 22 tournaments and posted a record of 168-51, with three USSSA state titles and seven consecutive runner-up finishes in the Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth state tournaments.

“We tried to teach discipline and how to play the game of baseball. Not to be a bunch of wild, crazy kids out there,” said Randy Martin-Nez, Ryno’s father and one of the Hurricanes’ coaches along with Darrell Evans and Darrell Rushing. “We’ve been together since they were seven years old. We’ve been through heartache, good times and bad times. Darrell, Darrell and myself never claimed to be great coaches but we exposed them to every situation you could be in.”

As they reached high school the team split up. Roughly half the players went to Warren Central, eventually forming the nucleus of this year’s Division 4-5A championship team. The other half went to St. Al and became a dynasty.

Three members — Stephen Evans, Ryno Martin-Nez and Pierson Waring — have started for St. Al since 2005, when they were in seventh grade. Rushing, Blake Haygood and Regan Nosser became regular starters by their sophomore seasons.

As the core of St. Al’s lineup, they steadily progressed toward a state title. They won a playoff series in 2007, then two in 2008. In 2009 they broke through and went 28-4 while winning the school’s first title in 33 years.

This season the Flashes went 22-8 and became the first Warren County team to repeat as state champions since St. Al in 1975 and 1976.

Behind the Hurricanes’ success on the baseball field was an uncommon bond. The hours and days spent playing baseball together made them more than teammates.

“We’ve supported each other through everything. We’re brothers,” Nosser said. “We’ve always been best friends.”

That bond made Friday’s finale both memorable and bittersweet. Stephen Evans, Waring and Martin-Nez will continue the Hurricanes’ tradition next season as teammates at Hinds Community College. But for the others it was their last time on the field together.

The Hurricanes have left an indelible impact on St. Al, and baseball in Vicksburg. Others will wear their uniform numbers in the years ahead but, St. Al coach Clint Wilkerson said, no one will match their legacy.

“I don’t even want to think about next year. I want to enjoy this one. I will say this, whoever is on the field next year has a lot of big shoes to fill,” he said.