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Hopefully great baseball will return to Vicksburg

I miss Trustmark Park.

Oh, sure, it’s sitting there in Pearl, right along I-20, big and inviting. The Mississippi Braves play there every few days and welcome everyone in with a smile and the promise of an opportunity to see a dizzy bat race, but that’s not what I mean.

The Mississippi High School Activities Association has taken the place over this week for its baseball championship series. Not that long ago it seemed like a given that our Warren County teams would be there on an annual basis.

Between 2001 and 2010, all four of our local schools played for a state title. Warren Central (2001) did it before Trustmark Park was built and the MHSAA moved the finals there. Porters Chapel Academy (2001, ‘03, ’04, ’06, 09) plays in the MAIS, but still provided our championship fix.

Vicksburg High reached the Class 4A finals in 2008, and St. Aloysius won the Class 1A championship in 2009 and 2010.

Besides the great teams, we had some great players roll through town. The Henry brothers, Justin and Jordan, left VHS and set records at Ole Miss and had solid professional careers. Same with Brian Pettway, who won the Ferriss Trophy at Ole Miss and played a few years in the minors. Several others had noteworthy college careers before transitioning out of the game.

Little did we know that when St. Al celebrated its second state title that it was actually the beginning of a drought. A decade of Warren County baseball dominance has given way to seven years of frustration and declining fortunes.

Warren Central has a good program and should be a contender for the Class 6A title in 2018, but has only been past the second round of the playoffs twice since 2001. St. Al and Porters Chapel seem stuck in first- and second-round playoff purgatory as well — good enough to get to the postseason, not good enough to do much in it. Vicksburg has fallen on hard times and is in rebuilding mode.

If you dissect it, there’s probably a ton of reasons behind both the success and relative lack of it between the two decades. Way too many to get into detail with here. This is really just a pining for the good old days — all of eight years ago — when Vicksburg was a baseball town pumping out college stars and championship teams.
I miss those days. Trustmark Park is a lot of fun. I hope we can go back soon. Maybe even more than once.

Ernest Bowker is a sports writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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