Titans continue busy summer

Published 12:30 pm Thursday, July 8, 2010

Trips to Tennessee and Louisiana to play a different level of baseball have been rewarding for the eight local products on the Mississippi Titans, an ages 17-and-under tournament team.

The Vicksburg-based Titans have played in tournaments at Hinds Community College, Memphis and LSU-Eunice and compiled a 10-6 record while making the finals in two of those tournaments. Today, they play in the Southern Miss Invitational in Hattiesburg. The USM event will feature plenty of top-flight competition, including the Florida American Legion state runners-up and the well-renowned Birmingham (Ala.) Vipers, the top-rated ages 18-and-under squad in USSSA.

Even after the long weekend in Hattiesburg is done, the Titans will not be. They will host at least two more games at Warren Central’s Viking Field. They tried to play Tuesday, but rain ended a game with the Jackson 96ers’ 17-year-olds’ team in the fourth inning. They will also have tournaments at Hinds, the University of Alabama and the NABF World Series at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson.

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“It’s been a lot of fun, said Vicksburg High School outfielder Lamar Anthony of the season to date. “I think with every game, I’m becoming a better hitter. The competition has been top-notch. We’ve played a bunch of teams that have guys at least 18 years old and who have already played a year of junior college or college ball. I definitely think this is preparing me to be able to play at a Division I school.”

Carlos Gonzales, who plays third base and catcher for Warren Central, has already seen the benefits as well.

“I’ve already gotten some calls. But I’m still waiting to hear from the ‘Big Three.’ That’s my dream,” Gonzales said, a rising senior at WC.

“Carlos has definitely gotten some offers and so has Montana (McDaniel),” Titans coach and director Roosevelt Brown said. Brown is a former major leaguer, having roamed the outfield for the Chicago Cubs. After a stint last year as the hitting coach for the Mississippi Braves, Atlanta’s Class AA affiliate, Brown returned to scouting and coaching youth. Putting together the Titans has been a long-time goal.

“I’ve always felt there was lot of talent here and to have this team helps give them that exposure. We’re playing good teams. The tournament we’re going to in Hattiesburg, we’ll face the Mississippi Prospects, the 96ers’ 18-year-old team, the Gulf Coast Stars and the Memphis Tigers. That’s a pretty tough bracket,” Brown said.

Southern Miss will be the first of two trips this month for the Titans to high-profile Division I programs. Following an eight-team tournament July 14-17 at Hinds, the Titans will head to Tuscaloosa, Ala. to play at the University of Alabama.

“Yeah, we’re definitely going there, That trip is paid for,” Brown said.

“I’m looking forward to the Alabama trip,” Gonzales said. “I’ve always loved Mississippi State, but if someone from there likes me, I’ll listen. Still, this team has helped me out a lot because you are playing real good teams. You have to take it serious. The team that beat us in the championship game in Louisiana had a lot of 19-year-olds. Facing that every game only makes you better.”

Brown waited until the local high schools wrapped up their month-long summer programs to schedule the bigger tournaments like Southern Miss and Alabama along with some midweek home games at WC.

“We’ve been able to practice more and, hopefully, we’ll get into a routine. I felt we were pretty sloppy in the game Tuesday. Besides the three tournaments we have left, I was also able to get us into the NABF World Series. We’ll play in that tournament at the end of July,” Brown said.