Tide takes on Vancleave

Published 2:49 pm Thursday, April 23, 2009

Picayune kicks off round two of the Class 4A South State prep baseball playoffs tonight, hosting Vancleave in game one of the best of three series at 6 p.m.

Both teams are coming off opening round sweeps, as Picayune dispatched Mendenhall in impressive fashion 10-0 and 11-1 while Vancleave beat South Jones 4-0 and 5-2.

The Maroon Tide, ranked 10th in the state, is 18-3 on the year while the Bulldogs are 17-9.

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Although the teams didn’t meet this season, they are familiar with one another.

“We played them last year, and Vancleave is always a solid team,” Picayune head coach Cayne Stockstill said. “They have a very good pitching staff and are well-rounded.”

Vancleave is led by the one-two starting pitching combination of Anthony Izzio and Tyler Buckley. Izzio is 7-1 on the year and Buckley is 6-2. Izzio, also Vancleave’s quarterback on the football team, shut out South Jones in game one of that series and had 11 strikeouts hurling a three hitter.

The Bulldogs, led by head coach Michael Henry, finished second in Division 7-4A. Vancleave’s only two league losses came in close decisions to defending state champion East Central, 3-1, and 2-0.

“Our kids are ready to go. They have been anticipating this since the weekend,” Stockstill added. “This time of the year, it’s usually the team that shows the most togetherness and determination that advances. You’ve got to have the grittyness it takes to get your uniform dirty.”

At the plate, Vancleave looks to Ethan Smith and Sean Hodges, each of whom is batting over .400, to lead the way. Tyler Bray, who had a big two run double in Saturday’s win over SJHS, is also a threat.

“The team made too many errors but managed to find a way to win,” Henry said. “If we are to go any further in the playoffs, we have to eliminate the errors and have more consistency in batting as a team.”

Game two is set for Friday in Vancleave, with game three if needed to take place Saturday at 1 in Picayune. The winner of this series plays the winner of the Wayne County-Lawrence County series in the South State semifinals starting next week.