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Co-Lin watching state tournament

Imagine this scene. A group of young children press their noses against the plate glass window of a downtown candy store as the aroma of hot chocolate drifts out the door and fills their senses with delicious promise. They wish aloud, “Oh, I want to be in the store and eat some candy.”

     Making the MACJC State Baseball Tournament is a sweet experience for the Fortunate Eight. Make that four teams from the South Division and four more from the North. The rest of the teams must either wish they were in that magic number or start working hard for the 2013 campaign.

     The best-of-three series starts Friday at four locations, with the top seeds owning the home field advantage. South No. 1 Jones County hosts North No. 4 Mississippi Delta, South No. 2 Gulf Coast hosts North No. 3 Northeast, South No. 3 Hinds is at North No. 2 Northwest and South No. 4 East Central is at North No. 1 Itawamba.

     Games 2 and 3, if necessary, will be played Saturday at the site of the higher seeds.

     Based on overall record, Itawamba’s Indians should be favored to win it all. They are 35-9 on the season and ranked eighth nationally.

     However, the South Division is much stronger overall. Jones County (29-17. 17-7) controlled the top rung most of the season. Gulf Coast (25-19, 13-11) and Hinds (29-16, 13-11) needed a tiebreaker to determine the No. 2 seed. East Central (25-21, 12-12) edged Southwest (20-26, 11-13) by one game in the battle for the No. 4 seed.

     “The South Division is brutal; strong from top to bottom,” proclaimed Co-Lin coach Keith Case before the season got under way in February.  His Wolfpack (23-21-1, 8-16) finished in last place, trailing No. 6 Pearl River (25-19, 10-14). It’s no fun being a bottom feeder.

     To Co-Lin’s credit, the Wolves swept East Central in their season finale. They split with Gulf Coast and won 3 of 4 from archrival Southwest. That feat brought the Coca-Cola Classic/Powerade Challenge trophy back to the Co-Lin campus.

     For sure, Co-Lin was competitive. The Wolves hit the ball well most of the time and usually played strong defense. The main problem was pitching strength and pitching depth.

     Pitching and defense can win a lot of close games. Co-Lin lost a lot of close games, often leading early but wilting late when a strong-armed closer could have preserved a victory.

     Case and his two assistant coaches, Bryan Nobile and Marty Dewees, are busy on the recruiting trail, searching high and low for strong-armed pitchers, sure-handed infielders, talented catchers and powerful hitters.

     Looking ahead, Case has a few starters returning for the 2013 campaign. Among them are catchers Jonathan Santana and Keith Martin. First baseman Will Gatlin, second baseman Gabe Wilson, and third basemen Matt Smith and Mitch Little return to the infield.

     Returning  to the outfield is Nolan Long.

     On the pitcher’s mound, the returnees are Ryan Goddard, Korey Allen, Tyler Case and Josh Wages.

 

     On the basketball recruiting trail, Co-Lin men’s head coach Dennis Sims and assistant Cliff Furr have been wearing out tires and automobiles in pursuit of talented players. Sims said he is encouraged by the five latest signees.

     The quintet include 6-foot-1 guard Chris Steverson of Jackson Wingfield, 6-6 forward Eric Smith of Clinton, 6-3 guard Ricky Kelly of St. Martin, 5-8 guard Robert Johnson of Hillcrest Christian,  and 6-5 guard Sidney Chaffin of Brookhaven Academy.

     Sims said he plans to sign three out-of-state players in the near future. Their level of talent could determine the amount of success for next season’s Co-Lin squad.

     “I feel good about our signees and I look forward to coaching them,” said Sims. “Our team must become more athletic.”

     Co-Lin will return four veterans in 6-1 guard Jay Case of Brookhaven (West Lincoln), the team’s leading scorer (12.5 ppg), 6-8 post Fred Fairman of Brookhaven, 5-8 point guard Joe Cunningham of Moss Point and 6-7 forward Daniel Washington of Brookhaven. Washington missed most of last season with a knee injury.

 

     Women’s basketball coach Gwyn Young said he plans to sign a few more players. Brookhaven Academy’s Laura Beth Wright signed today in the school’s library. Wright is a 5-8 guard.

     Also signed by Young were 5-10 forward Tyrishsa Patterson of Loyd Star, Kierra Collins of Franklin County, Ashley Minor of Natchez and Jaleisha Jones of Wayne County.

     Young’s latest edition finished 22-6. Among the returning starters next season are guard Chanta Poole and forward Vintrice Briggs.

     In case you missed it, Jones County rallied to beat Northeast 7-6 in the MACJC State Softball Tournament championship game. The NJCAA regional is next week at Traceway Park in Clinton.

 

     Contact sports editor Tom Goetz by Email: tgoetz@dailyleader.com