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Co-Lin, Southwest set for Coke Classic

The weather forecast is ideal for this weekend. Daytimetemperatures are in the high 70s, making it perfect for Saturday’sSixth Annual Coca-Cola Classic baseball showdown between the Co-LinWolfpack and the Southwest Mississippi Community College Bears.

It will be Family Day at Co-Lin’s Sullivan Stadium as theancient rivals collide. Coca-Cola of McComb has been a generousbenefactor to the series. Coke is providing T-shirts to the playersand making a cash donation to both athletic programs.

Also, there will be an assortment of giveaways compliments ofCoke. A large crowd is anticipated for the South Divisiondoubleheader that begins at 1 p.m. Youth league players will begiven free admission if they wear their game uniforms. Last year’suniforms are acceptable.

Co-Lin head coach Keith Case said youngsters are invited to rubelbows with the Wolves and play some catch, too, starting at 10a.m. That’s prior to Co-Lin batting practice.

“Hopefully, we will have a lot of kids there Saturday,” saidCase. “We are expecting a big crowd.”

Looks like a fun day for families. Bring your sunscreen.Refreshments are available at the concession stand.

Members of the media, along with players and coaches, gatheredfor a news conference Tuesday at Western Sizzlin. Friendly barbswere exchanged by both teams as Case and Southwest coach LeeKuyrkendall discussed their respective teams. Representing Cokewere James Brumfield, vice president; and Gary Nelson, on premisemanager.

Co-Lin has had its way with Southwest in sports such asfootball, basketball and softball but baseball is a differentmatter. Last year the Bears bested Co-Lin 3-1 in the best-of-fourseries.

This time around, it appears that Co-Lin has the advantage.Southwest only has four sophomores on its 26-member roster. Whenclasses began last August, fall some of the freshmen had to beshown where the razors and shaving cream were located in the McCombWal-Mart.

Cody Dillard, a second baseman from Pearl River Central(Carriere), is one of the sophomores providing leadership on theSouthwest squad.

Asked to describe the Bears, Dillard said, “We are young andfull of energy. Our four sophomores try to keep (freshmen) in line.We have been competing real well.”

Southwest is off to a 9-3 start, with three sophomores in thestarting lineup.

Dillard enjoyed his first taste of the rivalry last spring.”It’s always a good atmosphere when we play Co-Lin. It’s a bigrivalry with a lot of close games.”

He is major in psychology at Southwest and wants to become aschool counselor. Dillard also played on the PRC football team as arunning back and slot back.

Co-Lin sophomore third baseman Bud Britt worked at quarterbackon the Brookhaven football team before electing to concentrate onbaseball. He was one of the team’s leading hitters lastseason..

Following the NCAA’s example, the NJCAA switched to different,composite bats this season. In other words, there is less “ping”when bat meets baseball. The sweet spot area also has beenreduced.

NCAA officials deemed the bat change as a safety improvement, aswell as an effort to shorten the games. There will be far lessdouble-digit scoring parades and fewer 3-4-hour games.

In fact, it’s more like real Major League Baseball.

Pitchers and third baseman are delighted by the change in bats.However, the hitters miss launching those home runs off the handlesand those slicing, extra-base hits to the opposite field.

“The new bats suck,” said Britt, turning his head negatively andforcing a smile about a sensitive subject. “They are unforgiving. Iguess if you square up, you’re OK.”

By contrast, Britt said he likes the chemistry of this year’sCo-Lin squad. “We are playing well as a team. We have come frombehind several times to win games.”

Both coaches expressed their gratitude for the Coke Classicsponsorship. Junior college baseball is growing in popularity andso is the talent level. Kuyrkendall said 8 of his 9 sophomores fromlast year’s squad had opportunities to play at the senior collegelevel.

Co-Lin claimed two Distinguished Academic All-Americans inoutfielder Jeff Deblieux and infielder Kendall Logan on the 2010squad.

Both coaches hesitated to name Saturday’s starting pitchers.Case jokingly said, he would start Ryan Belanger (Southern Miss)and Brandon Belanger (Tulane) of Houma, La., both former Co-Linpitchers who earned All-American status at Co-Lin.

For sure, it should be another great series.

It won’t be easy. The Co-Lin women’s basketball team takes ontop-ranked and No. 1 seed Pensacola State (Fla.) tonight at 6 p.m.in the NJCAA National Tournament in Salina, Kan. Pensacola boastssix players taller than Co-Lin’s 6-foot-1 center, SedrekaPlummer.

The Lady Wolves upset Central Arizona Tuesday night in theopening round of the NJCAA tourney, powered by Paige Webster andKiara Etienne who combined for 50 points. Webster, a sophomore fromFranklin County, had a career game coming off the bench, sacking 26points.

Win or lose, Coach Gwyn Young’s Lady Wolves will play againFriday, either in the championship semifinals or the consolationbracket.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com