Missy Gators eye return to playoffs

Published 11:25 am Monday, February 27, 2012

If the Vicksburg Missy Gators can catch a break with the weather, they might find fair skies this spring.

A veteran team has returned for coach Amanda Yocum. Only two starters were lost from last year’s team that finished 10-12.

Wet weather, however, has been a problem. Consistent rain has bogged down the Missy Gators’ practices at Bazinsky Park. Vicksburg opened its season Friday with wins over Sacred Heart and Natchez, and will host Riverside on Thursday.

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“We’ve only been able to get on the field five times since practice opened on Feb. 1,” Yocum said. “We’ve been able to do drills and hit off the tee inside, but it’s still hard to say how we look.”

Yocum did make one offseason change, moving Blake DeRossette from shortstop to catcher. Sydney Bufkin, who was the catcher last season, has moved to third base. Yocum said the moves give the Missy Gators more versatility on defense.

“Blake has such a quick release and that will help us at catcher,” Yocum said. “We moved Sydney to third base and now we will be able to work both ways from the corners on defense.”

DeRossette, who batted .300 and scored a team high 18 runs last season, likes the changes.

“Our strength is going to be a strong defense,” DeRossette said. “I love playing catcher, I feel like I can protect my team better.”

And it’s a team DeRossette feels will reach the Class 6A playoffs for the third straight year.

“We will have a lot more heart, we’re dedicated to each other,” DeRossette said.

Yocum hopes that translates to better showings in tight games.

“We didn’t finish close games last year,” Yocum said. “But our bunting started to come around at the end of the season. We still must improve on it.”

With DeRossette behind the plate, the void at shortstop will be filled by either Torey Daniels or Paige Bowser. Whoever doesn’t play short will be at second base. Daniels is a key offensive threat with 12 runs scored and 13 stolen bases last year.

The big constant for Vicksburg is returning three-year starting pitcher Faith Thomas, who is still just a sophomore. She had her finest season in 2011, racking up 132 strikeouts in 94 innings pitched. Her 1.94 earned run average led Warren County.

Kortni Newman will replace graduated senior Lea Davies at first base. Olivia Oakes, an eighth grader, will work some there as well and will also pitch.

The outfield will have the speedy Victoria Lewis in center, with Brooke McGrew and Morgan Callender in right and left field, respectively.

Pitchouts – Missy Gators

2011 record: 10-12

Key Returnees: C Blake DeRossette (.300, 18 runs); SS/2B Torey Daniels (.224, 12 runs, 13 stolen bases), P Faith Thomas (1.94 ERA/94 IP, 132 K’s, .260)

Key Losses: 1B Lea Davies, OF Heather Middleton

Keys to season: With seven returning starters, can the Missy Gators continue the improvement shown last season?