Grey led young Vicksburg team to second-place division finish

Published 11:56 pm Saturday, June 2, 2012

When Ryan Grey took over as Vicksburg’s baseball coach last year, his years of experience as top lieutenant for former coaches Jamie Creel and Cody Zumbro served him well.

He had coached the Gators and knew the lay of the land and the personalities.

And he prospered because of his knowledge. For his efforts leading the Gators (15-11) to a second-place finish in Division 3-6A and a berth in the Class 6A playoffs, Grey is the Vicksburg Post’s Coach of the Year.

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“It was really a wonderful, wonderful year,” Grey said. “We started off slowly, but we got hot there in the middle. It was a learning curve for me and there are some things a classroom or a mentor can’t tell you, but you’ve got to learn on the job. One of the advantages I had on a new coach from somewhere else is that I knew the ropes here and the personalities. I knew how to handle different situations, which was really beneficial to our team. I knew what to expect from them and they knew what to expect from me and we really hit the ground running.”

The team had a strong senior core of outfielder/pitching ace Clyde Kendrick, outfielder Lamar Anthony and first baseman/workhorse pitcher Cameron Cooksey. A.J. Stamps, another senior, filled another corner in the outfield.

But the rest of the team was relatively untested and young, as Grey had to fill several key positions, like catcher, second base and third base. Grey told his seniors to keep the faith with the youngsters.

“You can’t get down on these guys early because they’re going to make mistakes,” Grey said. “They’re going to be carrying the load come the end of the season. Our seniors did a great job of being coaches on the field, helping me out. Those young guys started playing great there at the end of the season and that’s when we really got hot as a team.”

Along the way, Grey molded the team into a winner that believed in its own ability to rally, like when the Gators rallied from a nine-run deficit to beat Greenville-Weston or took the season series with a stirring walkoff win over Warren Central via Michael Rohrer’s walkoff RBI single.

The win over WC was the high point for Grey.

“It have to be the comeback against Warren Central,” said Grey of his favorite moment. “We were up all game, fighting for that two seed against them, a great team and a great coach. They fight, get a two-run lead, but our guys fight and get that big hit that propels us to victory. That was the highlight of my young career.”

While he loses a talented group of seniors, key pieces that made big contributions down the stretch — such as Jekori Reed, Darius Kendrick, Rohrer, Gabe Bufkin and Tyler Smith — will return next year.

While the Gators will be young again, Grey can hardly wait to get back on the diamond.

“I had a great group of guys and they’re the ones who deserve all the credit,” Grey said. “I really excited about next year and I’m really hoping next February will hurry up and come around.”