Wolves savoring regional crown

Published 5:00 am Thursday, May 12, 2005

WESSON — Still basking in the glow of the NJCAA Region 23Baseball Tournament championship, the Copiah-Lincoln CommunityCollege Wolves were looking forward to a few days off frompractice. After lunching on fried chicken Wednesday, they packedtheir bags and headed in different directions, looking mainly forrest and a little recreation.

Co-Lin head coach Keith Case said the team would practice Sundayafternoon at Sullivan Field and again on Monday. The Wolves departearly Tuesday morning for the Super Regional at St. Catherine,Ky.

Four Lincoln County products lingered long enough after lunch toanswer a few questions from this curious scribe. They includedsecond baseman Jody Britt and first baseman Ben Sandifer, bothsophomores; and outfielder Xavier Qualls and pitcher Scotty Smith,both freshmen.

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No.1-ranked Pearl River was the host team and the prohibitivefavorite in last weekend’s regional tournament at Poplarville. TheWildcats already had defeated Co-Lin four times during the regularseason, sweeping two doubleheaders. Co-Lin, beset by injuries allseason, entered the regional with a 24-24 record and plenty ofdisappointments.

The Wolves whipped Hinds in the opening round and shocked PearlRiver on Saturday with a 10-3 triumph, highlighted by a 10-runeighth inning. In Sunday’s finals, Pearl River pulled out a 4-3win, forcing a second game in which the Wolves howled to a 10-2triumph.

Were you expecting to win the regional?

Sandifer: “I knew we were going to win. Everybody was up andready.”

Britt: “I felt really good going in. There was no pressure.”

Qualls: “We should have beat them every time we played them. Allour hard work paid off.”

Smith: “We wanted to break their hearts in the second game.” Hewas the winning pitcher.

With all the injuries this season, how did you keep youreffort strong and your hopes high?

Sandifer: “Everybody is real close. We play as a team. We have alot of heart.”

Britt: “I was beginning to wonder if we would make it throughthe year. Our pitchers stepped up. Scotty (Smith) and Joseph(Langham) came up with some big hits, too.”

How did the sophomores respond to thechallenge?

Sandifer: “I had to step it up a bit. When it got hard, I had todo my job.”

Britt: “Last year we had a lot of sophomores in the lineup. Thisyear we had a bigger load to shoulder because we had so many youngplayers.”

After winning a Class 4A state championship at Brookhaven lastyear, Qualls and Smith made an immediate impact with Co-Lin.

How does junior college baseball compare to highschool?

Qualls: “The game moves faster. Pitching is much better everygame. The hitters are more complete. They can put the bat on theball.”

How did it feel to pitch the victory in the title gameagainst Pearl River?

Smith: “It felt really good. I relied on my defense. The onlything that compares to it was winning the state championship.”

The Super Regional at St. Catherine, Ky., will be adouble-elimination format, starting next Thursday. Co-Lin will facethe champion out of North Carolina in the 12 noon game. St.Catherine plays North Division regional champ Itawamba.

None of the Lincoln County quartet have set foot on Kentuckysoil. They said they’re looking forward to the experience. Itshould be fun.

If you weren’t playing baseball for Co-Lin, what wouldyou be doing?

Smith: “I’d be working at my mom’s family business and helpingmy high school coach.”

Sandifer: “I’d be working offshore or on the railroad with mydad.”

Qualls: “I’d like to coach a youth team and still go toschool.”

Britt: “I’d probably still be in school. I know I’d have a lotmore free time.”

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39601 or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com