Alcorn State softball opens season with two tournaments in Vicksburg

Published 3:47 pm Thursday, February 10, 2022

In 2017, Alcorn State’s softball team came to Vicksburg for a one-off doubleheader.

It didn’t take long for it to become not only a tradition, but a much bigger deal.

Alcorn will kick off its 2022 season with a couple of extended visits to Vicksburg. It is partnering with Jackson State to host the River City Classic, a pair of early-season tournaments, the next two weeks at Sports Force Parks.

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It’s the sixth year in a row that Alcorn has played at least one game in Vicksburg, and the third year for a tournament at Sports Force Parks.

“It’s been good. Sports Force there in Vicksburg, they do a lot for us,” Alcorn head coach Josef Rankin said. “It gives us the opportunity, especially our team, to be able to play in the city of Vicksburg. Especially now being able to do it more than once, it’s good for our program.”

The 2021 tournament was supposed to be two weeks as well, but an ice storm forced the cancellation of one of the sessions.

A number of teams were interested in returning this year, Rankin said, so the two-week plan was once again put in place. Seven teams will play this weekend, and five next week.

“We had some more teams that wanted to come down. We were supposed to last year, but the opening week was the week of that snow storm so that weekend got canceled and we played a little later in February,” Rankin said. “This year we’re hopefully good to go. The forecast looks good right now, at least for the first week.”

Alcorn was set to open its season Thursday night in Lorman, with a single game vs. Kentucky State. Both teams will then head up Highway 61 to Sports Force Parks.

The first weekend of the tournament will feature 16 games spread over three days, beginning Friday at noon when Grambling plays Tennessee State and Jackson State faces Kentucky State.

Alcorn will play Southeastern Baptist College at 2:15 p.m. and Tennessee State at 4:30 on Friday.

Games start at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday and continue through the afternoon.

Alcorn State, Jackson State, Grambling, Tennessee State, Kentucky State, Southeastern Baptist, and New Orleans’ Xavier University will all be in action this weekend.

The second weekend of the tournament is set for Feb. 18-20 and will feature Alcorn, Jackson State, Eastern Illinois, North Alabama and Alabama A&M playing a total of 13 games over three days.

These are the first of four tournaments that Alcorn will play in the first month of the season. It will also play four games at the Southern Miss Tournament in Hattiesburg Feb. 25-26, and five games at the Mississippi State Tournament in Starkville March 4-6.

Rankin said the tournaments are a good way to see a lot of live game action in a short time, before the Southwestern Athletic Conference schedule begins in mid-March.

“You’re looking at five games each weekend. Softball-wise, the early part of your season is spent playing in a lot of tournaments,” Rankin said.

Alcorn finished with a 14-18 record last season, but reached the championship game of the SWAC Tournament.

This will be the first uninterrupted season in two years for the Lady Braves. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic ended the 2020 campaign just before SWAC play began. Its continued effects eliminated their offseason workout program that fall and affected the team early in 2021.

Rankin said he believes a full offseason will help the Lady Braves build on last year’s success.

“Team-wise, we’re probably in the best position we’ve been in, in terms of depth across the board. The team is looking pretty good. We made some good gains in the fall and now we’re trying to get the reps in to be ready for the start,” Rankin said. “Last year, because of COVID we didn’t have a fall and it took us until the end of March to get going. We’re in a much better spot now. We’re looking to start off a little better than what we did last year.”

River City Classic schedule
Note: All games played at Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi
Noon – Grambling vs. Tennessee State
Noon – Jackson State vs. Kentucky State
2:15 p.m. – Alcorn State vs. Southeastern Baptist College
2:15 p.m. – Grambling vs. Kentucky State
4:30 p.m. – Alcorn vs. Tennessee State
4:30 p.m. – Jackson State vs. Southeastern Baptist College

Saturday, Feb. 12
11 a.m. – Grambling vs. Kentucky State
1:15 p.m. – Alcorn State vs. Southeastern Baptist College
1:15 p.m. – Tennessee State vs. Grambling
3:30 p.m. – Alcorn State vs. Xavier
3:30 p.m. – Jackson State vs. Tennessee State
5:45 p.m. – Jackson State vs. Xavier

Sunday, Feb. 13
11 a.m. – Alcorn State vs. Xavier
11 a.m. – Tennessee St.vs. Jackson St.
1:30 p.m. – Xavier University vs. Southeastern Baptist College
1:30 p.m. – Jackson St. vs. Grambling

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 reporters in the paper's 140-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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