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|Rec complex a big hit|
The top of the third inning on Saturday saw Recreation Director Johnny Lee Hoffpauir finally able to relax a bit, sit back on his utility vehicle and enjoy the contest between the Pearl River Community College Wildcats and Baton Rouge Community College.
The minor glitch on the scoreboard had been fixed, fans and teams seem well accommodated, and the early February day seemed more like a spring day.
It was the first collegiate contest ever held in Vidalia and the first real test for the Cliff Merritt Memorial Field at the Recreation District No. 3 Complex.
Then Pearl River's Krisjon Wilkerson hit a long fly ball to center field that just cleared the fence, as Baton Rouge centerfielder Darren Bueche leaped up to try and catch it, getting his glove caught in the blue screen.
So much for relaxation, as Hoffpauir started up his ride and headed for the outfield to assess the damage.
"It didn't tear," Hoffpauir reported later. "He didn't even get his cleat in it."
Truth be known, Hoffpauir wasn't able to relax until the final out of the first game, won by Pearl River 8-1.
He was able to enjoy the second game much better, a game which ended in the bottom of the 11th inning as Baton Rouge got a split with a 3-0 win.
But the real winner this day was the complex.
The pristine field glistened under the sun and the field proved it was capable of hosting a college game.
"It was a great day and we had a great turnout," Hoffpauir said. "We had very few hiccups. I thank Coach (L.J.) Dupuy of Baton Rouge Community College and Josh (Hoffpauir) for giving up a home game for his hometown."
Fifteen minutes before the first pitch, three former Viking All-Staters and Debra Merritt threw out the first pitches.
The marquee field is named after Debra's husband, Cliff Merritt, a long-time supporter of Vidalia baseball.
Pearl River head coach Josh Hoffpauir, Jarrett Hoffpauir and Barry Bowden also threw out first pitches.
All three were Class 2A Players of the Year while at Vidalia and played professional baseball.
Hoffpauir and his crew showed a major event can be held successfully in Vidalia.
Junior Williams was a pro doing play by play and working the scoreboard.
Believe me, that is no easy task at all. He just made it look - and sound - easy.
You can't have such a successful event without the help of volunteers and they were moving along throughout the park making sure all needs were met.
I haven't seen a lot of junior college baseball fields, but you would have a hard time convincing me that Pearl River and Baton Rouge Community College will play on many fields that looked as good as the Vidalia field on Saturday.
"I can't thank my staff enough and all the volunteers," Hoffpauir said. "We pulled it off."
Indeed you did.
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