June 25, 2009
Baseball fans will have their share of entertainment this weekend.
The Dizzy Dean High School World Series will hold its annual pre-tournament banquet at 6 p.m. today at the Trotter Convention Center.
The pairings for the four-day event will be determined tonight when tournament organizers find out how many teams will take part in the action.
New Hope High School baseball coach Stacy Hester, who serves as Tombigbee Region Representative for the World Series, said more than 20 teams are expected to compete this weekend.
Last year, 23 teams, including a team from Holmes County (Fla.), participated in the event. Ridgeland defeated New Hope in the championship game at Mississippi State''s Dudy Noble Field.
This year''s title game will be played at New Hope High.
Hester said the ideal situation for tournament organizers would be to have at least 21 teams, which would mean three teams at each of the seven host sites: Caledonia High, Columbus High, New Hope High, Oak Hill Academy, Starkville High, Starkville Academy, and West Point High.
East Webster also will participate in the World Series but won''t play host to any games.
Hamilton and Heritage Academy, which had teams play in the Dizzy Dean regular season, won''t compete in the World Series.
Each team will play the other members of its pool and crossover games against teams from a paired pool. Teams from Caledonia and Columbus, Starkville and Starkville Academy, and Oak Hill and West Point will be paired together.
The quarterfinals and semifinals will be at 1, 4, and 7 p.m. Sunday at Columbus and New Hope high schools.
Columbus coach Jeff Cook hopes his squad will be one of those teams. But Columbus might be shorthanded as it looks to win a championship. Rising senior Tyji Hawkins and rising junior Nick Durrah will compete in Meridian this weekend at the State Games of Mississippi.
New Hope also has five players -- Dillon Hawkins, Jake Smith, Philip Tice, Jake Upton, Brent Younger -- who will play in the State Games.
New Hope coach Chris Ball didn''t return a telephone message to answer questions as to whether his team would have those players available for the Dizzy Dean World Series.
New Hope fielded two high school teams in the regular season, so it might be able to bring all of the players into one team to make up for any player absences.
As for Columbus, Cook said Hawkins'' mother will be in Meridian and could provide the players transportation back to Columbus if the game times at the State Games and the World Series don''t conflict.
But Cook isn''t taking any chances. He knows his team, which competed earlier this week at the a team camp at Delta State, will need players like Stefan Hairston, Josh Tentoni, Tyler Blevins, Avery Ford, and others to pick up the slack.
"The kids are real excited about it," Cook said. "Some of these guys this is the third time or fourth time to play in the Series. It is going to be tough with Nick and Tyji at the State Games, but our guys worked hard at the Delta State camp and are really looking forward to playing in the Series."
This year''s World Series will start more than two weeks earlier than last year. World Series organizers moved the event to avoid conflicts with other sports and to afford families and athletes more time away from sports.
Cook said it''s unfortunate that the State Games baseball dates coincide with the World Series, and that it feels like this year''s World Series has snuck up on everyone.
But he said that doesn''t mean there won''t be plenty of fine baseball and competitive games.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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