College game coming to Vidalia
by Joey Martin - posted Thursday, January 31st, 2013 @ 8:36 am
The first-ever collegiate competition in Vidalia will be held at the Recreation District No. 3 Recreation Complex Saturday, Feb. 9 as Pearl River Community College of Mississippi will face Baton Rouge Community College in a doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m.
A familiar face will be in one of the dugouts, as former Vidalia High All-State shortstop/pitcher Josh Hoffpauir begins his third season as head coach at PRCC.
"It's exciting any time you can come back home, but even more special to be one of the first games on the new complex," Hoffpauir said. "It means a lot to me and it will be fun to see some familiar faces running around out there."
Hoffpauir helped lead Vidalia's baseball team to its lone state championship in 1996.
In Hoffpauir's first two seasons as head coach, the Wildcats have tallied a 54-38 record.
Hoffpauir was pleased with his team' fall workouts.
"We have a good group of guys," said Hoffpauir. "In my 10 years as a coach, this is the most fun group that I have been around. They enjoy coming out every day to work."
Successful teams sport strong pitching staffs and Hoffpauir believes he has the nucleus of a good staff. Some of the proof came during the early signing period for colleges and universities.
Three of his players signed grant-in-aid scholarships early.
Right-handed pitcher Ryan Deemes of Holy Cross High in Chalmette, La., signed with Nicholls State (La.) University and Christian Talley of Hancock High, another righthander, signed with the University of Southern Mississippi.
Deemes was a key starter in 2012, boasting a perfect 4-0 record. He pitched 45 innings, struck out 32, and finished his freshman year with a 4.2 earned run average.
Talley finished the 2012 season with a 4-1 record in 57 innings of mound work. He struck out 39 batters and had a team-best 2.37 earned run average.
Also, center fielder Braxton Lee of Picayune signed with Ole Miss. Lee was an All-MACJC and All-Region 23 performer last season and sported a second_best .362 batting average. He played all 42 games, finished with 50 hits, a .461 on-base percentage, and 29 stolen bases - all team-high totals. His stolen base percentage was 93.5 and he drove in 20 runs.
Throw in Jacksonville, Fla., transfer Brandon Fry, a sophomore lefty, returning relief pitcher Anthony Lusco of Bay St. Louis, along with incoming freshmen Trevor Bennett of Hancock and Jake Brumfield of Natchez, and Hoffpauir believes he has the makings of a solid staff.
"We have big expectations for Ryan and Christian, and Fry has some Division I offers on the table," Hoffpauir said. "Our top reliever is back and two good freshmen stepping in. These will be the guys we count on the most for our pitching."
Hoffpauir said Talley will start the first game against Baton Rouge in Vidalia, while Brumfield, who prepped at Adams County Christian School could possibly start the second game.
The catching chores will be handled by sophomores Krisjon Wilkerson of St. Stanislaus and Forrest Dungan of Columbia, who will split doubleheaders. "We expect both of those guys to have good years at the plate," said Hoffpauir.
Freshmen Carlos Gonzalez of Warren Central have the inside track at third base and Andrew Wilkes of Pearl at shortstop.
Darien Brown of Hattiesburg and Paul Pickerrell of Elizabethtown, Ky., are battling at second and Nathan Pugh of Starkville, another freshman, is at first.
Lee has the centerfield job. Kollin Cannon of St. Stanislaus, Darius Knight of Pearl, and Pickerrell are among a group that will play in the outfield.
"Right now, we have a lot of options in the outfield," said Hoffpauir. "We are pretty athletic, so that will help if we have to move guys around. It's a freshman-oriented bunch but it's also a good, strong class."
This fall has not been without its challenges for the baseball team. The field house suffered water damage from heavy storms early in the semester. The renovation has included new lockers, offices and players' locker room.
"We didn't have the field house for two months this fall, but these guys never complained," said Hoffpauir. "It's almost finished. We are excited about it."
"I haven't been this excited about a team in a long time," said Hoffpauir. "We may not be as talented as we have been, but it is a close group. We play in a tough conference, but I am looking forward to the season."
Assistant coaches for the Wildcats are former PRCC pitching star Kyle Lindsey and Jeff Long.
The manager is Cody Ladner.
Hoffpauir is a 2001 graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi where he earned a master's degree in coaching and sports administration. He was hired as a McMahon assistant prior to the 2008 season. Prior to arriving at The River, he spent a year at Holmes Community College where he served as the recruiting coordinator and hitting coach. In his only season at Goodman, the Bulldog squad boasted a team batting average over .300, while stealing an impressive 137 bases. Before landing his Holmes job, he coached at the University of Southern Mississippi in 2005 and 2006, serving as an assistant coach for two years where he worked with infielders, hitters, and base running. Hoffpauir also served as the first base coach and coordinator of USM baseball camps. Hoffpauir started his professional baseball career in the Oakland A's organization in 2000 and was named the Arizona A's Most Valuable Player. During his professional baseball career he had stints with the Oakland A's, Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, and Texas Rangers organizations. He played for Northwestern State (La.) his first three collegiate seasons before transferring to Southern Miss.