The timing of the State Games in the Meridian and other conflicts have kept many teams away from the Dizzy Dean High School World Series with only 17 participating this year.
Even though the State Games has had an impact on Ridgeland”s team, it still realizes the importance returning to the Golden Triangle to defend its championship.
Ridgeland defeated New Hope in the championship game last year and coach Jerry Dupuy, a former Mississippi State pitcher, is excited about bringing the team back for a chance to repeat.
“We”re going to end our summer program with this tournament and we”re just going to have a good time,” Dupuy said. “It”s unfortunate we don”t have as many teams this time with all of the things going on and the limited dates this summer, but I think there is a good mix of teams and some quality opponents. So we”re looking forward to it.”
Dupuy said two of Ridgeland”s main pitchers are playing in the State Games and two other players had surgeries that will keep them out of action.
Despite that adversity, Ridgeland believes it can compete for the championship with what it has left.
“We”ll be pretty solid and we”re going to swing the bats hopefully well,” Dupuy said. “We look for some guys to step up and throw for us.”
Ridgeland began the defense of its title today at noon at Columbus High School against Center Hill.
In the pairings of the original bracket, that was still subject to change throughout the weekend, Ridgeland”s opponents were set to be Columbus at 7 p.m. today, Holmes County, of Bonifay, Fla., at 4 p.m. Saturday, and Wayne County at 7 p.m. Saturday.
As a member of Pool E, Ridgeland”s first three games are at Columbus High, while Wayne County is a crossover game scheduled for New Hope High School.
Dupuy recalls fondly last year”s World Series when Ridgeland won the pool at Starkville Academy, then won the quarterfinals and finals at Columbus High before moving on to beat New Hope at Dudy Noble Field on the Mississippi State campus.
“We got hot at the right time, our guys were hungry to win and everything clicked for us,” Dupuy said. “We got solid pitching and swung the bats well.”
Due to baseball camps at Mississippi State this weekend, Dupuy, who pitched for the Bulldogs in 1993-94, won”t be able to take his team back to Dudy Noble Field if it makes the finals for the second-straight year.
Though the situation may be considered bittersweet, the focus is getting back to the finals no matter where it”s played.
“Hopefully, we can play at New Hope on Monday,” Dupuy said.
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