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|State schools need map for baseball|
I understand that there are not a lot of community colleges in Louisiana. But I still do not understand why there is not one single player from the parish playing baseball at a college in Louisiana.
Check out on the east side of the Mississippi River and you have Barry Bowden leading a strong contingent of six former Vikings suiting up for community colleges and colleges in Mississippi.
Bowden, a two-time Class 2A Player of the Year in Louisiana, is starting his senior season at USM. Last year as a junior, Bowden walked only 28 batters over 98.1 innings. That was a big key to his 7-4 record, 3.11 earned run average and the fact opposing batters hit only .247 against him. He also had 86 strikeouts.
Bowden signed early with USM, but that is no excuse for the fact that Louisiana Tech presented only a general interest without offering a scholarship.
The only other true pursuit came from Mississippi State, which was just starting to show interest in the Viking right-hander before he signed with Southern Miss.
And you can bet Golden Eagle head coach Corky Palmer is grateful.
"Barry had a tremendous junior year," Palmer said. "He is slated to be our Friday night starter this year. He's worked hard to get to that point. He's working on getting his curve ball back because he has spent so much time on his change-up. He is probably the best right-handed change-up pitcher in this league (Conference USA). He uses it 40 percent of the time. He does need to get his curve ball going against right-handed hitters."
Bowden is not the first Viking to play at USM. Josh Hoffpauir transferred to Hattiesburg from Northwestern State after signing with NSU, the first Vidalia baseball player to sign a baseball scholarship.
"Josh kind of opened the doors," said Vidalia High baseball coach Johnny Lee Hoffpauir.
LSU head coach Paul Mainieri has not had a chance to check out the entire state after completing his first season at LSU last year after 12 years at Notre Dame, but certainly expressed interest in the Vidalia area.
"There is a lot of talent in Louisiana and the fans have been very warm to me and encouraging," Mainieri said.
Mainieri led LSU to a 29-26-1 record in his first year, taking over a program that was struggling under Smoke Laval.
"I feel like we have a good group," Mainieri said. "We used a lot of freshmen pitchers last year and the good news is that they are sophomores this year. We had a real good recruiting class last year and we're excited about this season."
While taking note when being briefed on the success of the Vidalia baseball program through the years, Mainieri said recruiting will become even more difficult for college baseball teams next year.
"The NCAA is going to put a cap on rosters of no more than 35 people," Mainieri said. "We have to be even more selective, even with our walk-ons."
Getting back to local players competing in Mississippi, Bryan Bennett started out at USM and is now in his senior season at Belhaven College in Jackson. Bennett had the misfortunate of signing at USM when a couple of all-conference players were playing his position at first base.
Bennett started all 61 games for Belhaven last year and batted .396, which was second to Thomas Royals. He also had seven home runs and led the team with 57 RBIs and a team best .613 slugging percentage.
Bryan's brother, Josh, walked on at Belhaven last year where he was redshirted and returns this year.
Tyler Bruce is at Holmes Community College after transferring from Garden City Community College in Kansas.
Jordan Brewer is also at Holmes.
Former Vidalia Viking catcher Chris Williams and former Huntington Hound Huston Eliser are playing baseball at North Arkansas College, a community college in Harrison, Ark.
Back in 1991, Keith Henry walked on at Louisiana Tech and made the team.
Gary Paul Parnham played baseball at Henderson State after transferring from Louisiana Tech, where he received a football scholarship. Lannie Emfinger played baseball at Ouachita Baptist after walking on, while Alan Ensminger played baseball at Evangel College in Springfield, Mo.
Glen Donald received a baseball scholarship to LSU-Shreveport.
Richard Criswell signed with Copiah-Lincoln and then went on to Henderson State.
Gabe Bailey signed a scholarship with Centenary before moving on to Louisiana Tech, while Kelly O'Neal walked on and played at Northwestern. Heath Davis also walked on at Northwestern.
Jarrett Hoffpauir followed Josh to USM and had a great career. He is now on the St. Louis Cardinals 40-man roster after finishing up at triple-A Memphis last season.
McNeese State was the only Louisiana school really recruiting Jarrett before he signed with USM.
Tech backed off of Jarrett because they said they could sign two players before offering Jarrett a full scholarship.
Mississippi Delta Community College signed Brett Hinson and Reid Simpson from Vidalia High. Hinson is continuing his pitching duties at Mississippi College after two standout seasons at MDCC.
And I still believe someone should have given Huntington's Trey Corbett a decent chance.
Huntington's Chad Vaught received a scholarship to LSU, which had a lot to do with his academic standing, as well.
Craig Cowan of Ferriday High signed with Alcorn, while Harvey Lee Cowan signed with Southwest Mississippi Junior College.
"We're just kind of in no man's land," said Hoffpauir, who started baseball at Vidalia in 1979. "It's hard to get coaches here to look at players."
Palmer is certainly happy about that.
"Coach Hoffpauir does a great job, he is very competitive and his guys always work hard," Palmer said. "His players understand what they are supposed to do. He's the kind of coach that you know when he recommends someone you know they can play Division I baseball. He's always been very honest with us. And he has a good baseball program. I never knew where Vidalia was until I started recruiting Josh years ago. Vidalia has been good for us and hopefully in the future we'll find some more over there. Louisiana's loss has been our gain."
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