By Justin Sutton
The Biloxi Indians baseball team ended its 2010 campaign early in the playoffs, and Indians skipper Kevin Burdine hopes the experience will benefit his team this year.
Biloxi launches its season this evening at 7:45, hosting D'Iberville in the Biloxi Classic, and the Indians return Saturday afternoon at 2:45 to face St. Martin.
"We’ve been in the playoffs, and some of the kids on this team have been there back-to-back years," Burdine said. "I think the kids are going to be focused, and they know we need to make a run."
Burdine and his staff believe the club could produce strong results on the diamond this season. "We have very high expectations," he said. "We are a seasoned ball club. We have a lot of kids who have a lot of experience."
The ultimate goal for Biloxi -- and every other high school team in Mississippi -- is to play in the state championship at Trustmark Park.
"If we are going to get to the championship, we are going to have to have good production from seven of our nine guys in the line up," said Burdine, who also believes defense plays an important role on championship-caliber teams. "We swung the bat fairly well last year, but our fielding percentage was below 90 percent. If you are going to go deep, you have to have a fielding percentage around 91 or 92 percent."
When the Indians open their season this evening, several players will be returning to the diamond for one final run. Among them are Hawtin Buchanan, an Ole Miss signee, Jordan Mata, a Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College signee, and Craig Wilson.
"I'm looking for big things from these players," Burdine said. "I also think Marcus Lawton and Derek Whitfield are going to have big years for us."
Burdine hopes the seniors can be a strong influence on younger players. "I really want to see our senior corps be the leaders on this club."
The coach also believes that the return of Nick Wheelock will help the team. Juniors Cody Brown and Jordan Skog are expected to contribute as well, along with Scotty Reed, Tyler Wilson and Michael Howarth.
Two games on the schedule drew extra attention from Burdine. "Our first game against George County should be big," the coach said.
"Two of the premier pitchers in Mississippi will be facing each other in Mason Robbins and Hawtin Buchanan."
He also believes the Gulfport game could be pivotal. "If we both win district, it could be an all-out battle. Hopefully, we will both win district, and it will be a great game on that Monday night."
Classic games: Besides the Biloxi games tonight and Saturday, the Biloxi Classic features Harrison Central taking on St. Martin at 5 this afternoon, and Harrison Central playing D’Iberville at noon Saturday. All games will be played at Biloxi High.
Baseball schedule: To print the 2011 baseball schedules, click here.
Softball schedule: To print the 2011 softball schedule, click here.