Valdosta Daily Times

March 21, 2014

Rivalry showdown

Vikings, Wildcats hope for success in key region doubleheader

Jamie Wachter
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — When it comes to the Region 1-AAAAAA doubleheaders, Lowndes coach Danny Redshaw isn’t going to beat around the bush. No, the Vikings hope to win both games.

So far, though, Lowndes hasn’t met that goal this season, which puts added importance on today’s doubleheader at Noel George Field against rival Valdosta. Game 1 starts at 4:30 p.m.

“It’s a region doubleheader, and obviously all of those are big,” Redshaw said as his Vikings look to improve on their 4-7 mark, 1-3 in the region.

“You go in hoping you can win two, and you can’t do that unless you win the first one. That’s a big game.”

It helps Lowndes’ chances of accomplishing that considering the Vikings get to throw left-hander Cory Pope out on the mound. Lowndes and Pope did win Game 1 of last week’s doubleheader 8-4 against Tift County, rallying late. However, the Vikings then lost 6-0 in the second game.

The Wildcats (9-2, 1-1), though, aim to prevent Lowndes from repeating that Game 1 success, even if they know the challenge that Pope presents.

“Then if we can find a way to score against Pope, who’s a great pitcher,” Valdosta coach Bart Shuman said. “We have to put something together against him.

“That’s probably the key, if we can get some runs off him. He’s their No. 1 guy and he’ll set the tone for the first few innings for sure.”

VHS opened its region slate last week against Colquitt County, and after rallying for a 4-2 win in the opener, the Wildcats suffered a 9-2 loss in Game 2. It helps the Wildcats’ cause as well that they can turn to ace Austin Lieupo.

“He’s pitched well,” Redshaw said. “He’s done a good job for them.

“I was pretty sure they were going to have a good baseball team coming into the year. It hasn’t surprised me at all. They’ve got a solid team, one of the best in the region. It’s going to be tough.”

Added Shuman “Well, obviously we have to pitch well first.”

While Shuman stressed the importance of getting a good performance from Lieupo and the rest of the Wildcat pitchers, which likely includes Seth Shuman starting Game 2 and David Posas working out of the bullpen, Redshaw said the most important aspect for the Vikings will be cleaning up some defensive shortcomings.

“We’ve just got to play defense,” he said. “For the most part, we’ve been pitching it well enough and hitting it well enough to win most of the games we’ve been in.

“If we can play solid defense, that’ll give us a chance.”

That’s all either coach can hope for — along with a doubleheader sweep — going into the rivalry games.

“It’ll be an exciting game and we were probably thinking more about that than Cairo,” Shuman said Wednesday night after his Wildcats beat the Syrupmakers in a tuneup before the big series.

“They’ll be hard to beat over there, they’ve got a good team and they do a good job.”