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Players showcase diamond skills in Games

By Staff
This is one in a series of stories highlighting the competitions that make up The State Games of Mississippi. The State Games are set for June 18-20 and June 24-27 in Meridian.
By Marty Stamper / EMG sports assistant
May 17, 2004
After completing his first year as commissioner of the State Games baseball last year, Eddie Lofton found the job to his liking.
The fifth-year Seminary High School head baseball coach is back as commissioner again this year. He had previously coached in the 2002 Games. Lofton took over last year from Kent Farris, who was the commissioner for the Games' first 11 years.
The baseball tournament is annually one of the State Games' most prestigious events in that athletes must be selected in order to compete.
Rosters are limited to rising juniors and seniors with 18 players on each of the eight teams. The field was expanded from four teams in 1998.
The Games offer players from small schools a chance to be seen and evaluated by senior college and pro scouts, something they're not likely to receive during their high school seasons.
Several of the recent State Games baseball players have gone on to play at universities in and near Mississippi. Among those are Ole Miss' Stephen Head, Travis Bogue, Jon Hancock, John Morgan Mims, and Michael Wakefield; USM's Jody Blount; Mississippi State's Jeffrey Rea, Justin Pigott, and Todd
Doolittle; and Stephen Gostkowski of the University of Memphis.
Tournament host Meridian Community College owes some of its success on the diamond to bringing the top players to its campus and showing what it has to offer during the annual Games.
Among the current MCC Eagles who have participated are Aaron George, Joey Lieberman, Van Pope, Christopher Rayborn, and Sam Self.
The tryouts for the games will be held at eight junior colleges across the state on June 5 starting at 10 a.m. Athletes from both public and private schools may try out, but those from private schools must compete at the tryout in what would be their public school district. There is no registration fee for the tryouts.
Only 2005 and 2006 high school graduates are eligible to try out. The eight juco tryout sites are Itawamba at Fulton (District 1), Northwest Mississippi at Senatobia (District 2), Delta at Moorhead (District 3), East Mississippi at Scooba (District 4), Jones at Ellisville (District 5), Hinds at Raymond (District 6), Copiah-Lincoln at Wesson (District 7), and Gulf Coast at Perkinston (District 8).
Players selected for the Games will have a showcase for the college and pro scouts on June 23 at MCC.
The tournament is slated for June 24-27 at Meridian Community College's Scaggs Field. The format will again be a two-pool, double-elimination format similar to that of the NCAA Division I College World Series.
District Six (Jackson area) and District One (Tupelo area) have dominated the event over the last three years. District One defeated District Six 6-2 for the 2001 gold medal only to have District Six win the 2002 and 2003 gold medals, beating District One 5-0 in 2002 and 2-1 last year.
Founding Gold Sponsors of The State Games of Mississippi an Olympics-style sports festival are Rush Foundation Hospital and Meridian's Coca-Cola, while Gold Sponsors are The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, The Partnership For a Healthy Mississippi, Bell South and Meridian Airport Authority.
For event applications or schedules call 1-800-462-0205 or visit the State Games of Mississippi website at www.stategamesofms.org.

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