As basketball season hits the North Half stretch, local baseball and softball teams are working toward a seven-inning stretch.
Several teams participated in area jamborees last weekend to get their feet back on the grass for the spring season.
Hilltoppers finding a fit
The Houston boys headed to Pontotoc and battled Kossuth and Pontotoc in four-inning jamboree games. Although the outcome wasn’t what coach Scott Gann would have liked, he expected some early season struggles.
“We are replacing six every-day starters so there are some growing pains,” Gann said. “I really thought our pitchers struggled to find the strike zone and usually the hitters are the ones behind at this point, but that wasn’t the case Saturday.”
He did get plenty of players on the field to get back in a baseball frame of mind.
“We probably had the most amount of players in those two games than we’ve ever had,” Gann said of running 12 athletes into eight innings of play. “Our intensity and effort was great early on. We stole a few bases, we hustled a single into a double. But after the newness of the game wore off, so did the intensity and we just didn’t respond.”
There were bright spots coming from some of the more seasoned players as Austin Burdine went 2-4 with a three-run homer. Denver McQuary, Grady Nabors and Reid Carter all hit 2-4 and Garrison Howell hit 2-3.
“We’ve got to get better effort consistently throughout the entire game if we’re going to compete with the big boys on our schedule.”
The Hilltoppers will open the regular season Saturday hosting the Houston Classic with Potts Camp and Booneville coming to town.
“The forecast shows a beautiful spring afternoon so we want to welcome all Topper baseball fans to the park to get this season started off right,” Gann said.
Vardaman over Aberdeen
The Rams headed to Aberdeen for jamboree and came away with a 16-1 varsity win and an 8-0 JV win in their first outing of the spring.
“They did really well,” said coach Boo Griffin. “We made some little mistakes and (Aberdeen) coach Clay had a pretty good pitcher. He threw strikes but he’s just in eighth grade.”
Griffin understands youth as his Rams are loaded with younger players.
“We’ve got one senior,” Griffin said. “There’s not a lot of depth except for the younger guys. But I feel like we can compete in our division.”
The division includes Smithville, Houlka, Hamilton and Tupelo Christian Prep and Griffin expects Houlka to make some noise once they come off the basketball court.
“They’re loaded with seniors this year,” Griffin said. “A lot of people think Smithville is going to be the team to beat but I think it will be Houlka.”
Both Houlka and Vardaman have been working to re-establish summer baseball programs that should help feed into the school programs.
“We’ve got a city league now and we’re working (the school team) through the summer so I’ll get my hands on them pretty early and work with them,” Griffin said. “We’re trying to build on that.”
The Rams will head to Calhoun City for the Calhoun County Tournament Saturday, taking on Bruce at 11 a.m.
Lady Toppers split in Mooreville
The Houston girls first jamboree of the season yielded a win and a loss.
The Lady Toppers beat Hamilton 4-3 and fell to Mooreville 1-0.
The JV Lady Toppers bested Hamilton 6-2.
The Lady Toppers will host their Classic Tournament Saturday with Vardaman, Pontotoc and West Point participating.