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|Vikings counting on hitting|
Vidalia High head baseball coach Johnny Lee Hoffpauir fielded one of his best hitting teams ever last season.
Hoffpauir is counting on his hitting once again this season with a shortage of pitchers and lack of experience in his infield and outfield.
"This is as thin a pitching staff as I have had in a long time," Hoffpauir said. "Head-to-head in one game we'll do OK, but once we get in a tournament or having to play several games in a few days we are really going to be stretched. But every season brings a new challenge. It will be hard to put the kind of season together like we did last year. It's a new challenge and it's going to be a big challenge."
Vidalia finished 16-7 last season, falling to Iowa in the first round of the playoffs.
"There were a lot of questions going in and a lot of people did not expect us to compete in district," Hoffpauir said. But by the time the season ended, I was very well pleased with the progress this team made from the beginning to the end. This team made as much progress as any team I have ever had."
Vidalia junior Mason Ozburn, the 2008 Parish Player of the Year, is the lone starting pitcher returning for the Vikings this year. Ozburn hit .455 with three home runs and a .727 slugging percentage.
Others seeing time on the mound are junior Seth Thompson, junior Trey Lillie and sophomore B.J. Neeley.
"Seth has some varsity experience and Trey pitched B team," Hoffpauir said. "Jake DeWeese has an arm injury and won't be able to get on the mound."
Freshmen Jamale Davis, Tucker Bruce and Corey Williams may also see time on the mound."
Junior Seth Barlow will be behind the plate.
"Seth started last year at catcher before he was injured," Barlow said.
DeWeese and junior Ben Parnham will be at third base.
Lillie holds down second base, while Ozburn will be at shortstop. Thompson and Neeley will be at third.
"Obviously our pitching will dictate our infield," Hoffpauir said. "It's kind of like Russian Roulette."
Sophomore Caleb Vines is the lone returning outfielder and will be holding down centerfield.
Freshman Matt Souderes, junior Dalton Slade and freshman Nathan Bozeman will see time in the outfield, as well.
Freshman Devin Barnes will be used as a designated hitter.
"In our scrimmage against Mangham we had three freshmen starting," Hoffpauir said.
Hoffpauir has one senior on his team.
"One thing about this team is they brought back good work ethic from last year and we'll get better as the year goes along," he said. "Our district is up for grabs. Every team returns its best player. It will be interesting."
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