Best time to go South is January

Published 7:00 pm Thursday, January 27, 2011

No doubt about it. January is the best month to take a cruiseship to Cancun or enjoy an extended vacation in the Florida Keys.By Magnolia State standards, the weather has been awful.

I was talking to some local deer hunters the other day and askedthem, “Did you go deer hunting last week?”

The answer from these hearty outdoorsmen. “Nah. It was too coldout there for me.”

Yes, it has been cold, often below 32 degrees, and the weatherhas been frightful. Fortunately, the snow and ice storms that hitnorthern Mississippi didn’t make it this far south. Most of thetime we settled for a cold, drizzly rain and thanked God for nopower outages. The South is not prepared for ice and snow.

Perhaps if some local teams play a softball or baseball game,Mother Nature might be fooled. “Hey, it’s time to shower the landwith warm sunshine.”

Area high school and community college softball and baseballcoaches are doing their best to get their respective teams inplaying condition. Many of them have a covered, if not enclosedpractice facility where they can throw the ball and take battingpractice.

Coaches often have to improvise when it comes to practicefacilities. The pitchers can use the local tennis courts forthrowing. Outfielders can use the asphalt parking lots for makinglong throws. Gymnasiums are available after the basketball teamsconclude practice.

“Make sure you clean up the mud and dirt from those shoes,”growls a concerned basketball coach to the desperate baseballcoach. “We just resurfaced the floor.”

And so it goes this time of year. Warmer weather and sunshineare predicted for the weekend. But you never know when the nextArctic cold front is going to invade the Magnolia State.

Coach Allen Kent is preparing his Copiah-Lincoln CommunityCollege Lady Wolves for a Feb. 12 season debut at Millsaps Collegein Jackson. The Lady Wolves will play their first home game Feb.15, hosting Holmes Community College.

Kent must replace most of his starters on defense but he doeshave a veteran pitcher returning in Bethany Pinkston, plus catchersHaley Sones and Laken Lockhart. He only has four sophomores on the16-member varsity.

On the bright side or the sunny side, Kent does have a talentedgroup of freshmen. However, they are up against a strong group ofSouth Division opponents who delight in beating Co-Lin.

Kent has fashioned one of the strongest softball programs in theMississippi Association of Community/Junior Colleges. They werenational runners-up in 2008 and finished third in the NJCAANational Tournament in 2006. The 2010 team posted a 30-18record.

Kent’s squads have compiled a 240-86 overall record, whileboasting five NJCAA All-Americans and 12 AcademicAll-Americans.

The Lady Wolves will host an offensive skills softball clinicfor players in grades 7-12 onSaturday, Feb. 5, from 1-4 p.m., onCo-Lin’s field. They will cover all aspects of hitting.

Kent, along with assistant coach Duane Burt, will conduct thecamp. In the event of inclement weather, the clinic will be held inCo-Lin’s two gymnasiums. So, just in case, bring tennis shoes.

Pre-paid cost for the clinic is $35. Walk-ups will be acceptedat the cost of $40 per player. Secondary insurance coverage isprovided.

For more information, contact Kent at 601-643-8314 and601-757-0269, or by e-mail at allen.kent@colin.edu

Meanwhile, over at the baseball diamond, Co-Lin veteran skipperKeith Case is anticipating a much-improved campaign. The Wolfpackstruggled on the mound last year and finished with a 19-30worksheet. They were 5-18 in the South Division.

Obviously, Co-Lin’s pitching staff will be older, wiser andstronger this season. Add several promising freshman hurlers to themix and who knows how much they can turn it around in 2011.

Behind the plate, Co-Lin has one of the best catchers in theleague. Brookhaven Academy product Kolby Byrd spent one year atMississippi State as a redshirt freshman and elected to transfer.He’s strong on defense and swings a mean bat, too.

Case’s team launches their 2011 campaign Feb. 15, hosting EastMississippi Community College for a pair of 7-inning games,starting at 2 p.m. Hopefully, the game time temperature in thelid-lifter will be in the 60s. Weather is unpredictable at best inFebruary. It can be either dreadful or wonderful inMississippi.

District and division basketball tournaments are just around thecorner. Brookhaven Academy’s District 4-AA Tournament starts a weekearlier than the public schools and it tips off Feb. 1, at BowlingGreen in Franklinton, La. The BA Cougars are seeded No. 1 and won’tplay until next Friday’s semifinals.

The BA boys are 6-time defending state tournament champions.They’ll play Bowling Green Friday in the semifinals. The ColumbiaAcademy boys are seeded No. 1.

Win or lose, all four semifinalists play in next Saturday’sconsolation or championship games. That will determine seeding inthe South State AA Tournament at Columbia Academy, Feb. 8-12.

Brookhaven Academy hosts the state tournament Feb. 15-18, inJohn R. Gray Gymnasium. That event always brings a large crowd ofout-of-town visitors to the Homeseekers Paradise.

Write to Sports Editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O. BOX551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mail sports@dailyleader.com