NEW ALBANY – Gardner Richey considered his father’s idea for a summer collegiate league in North Mississippi as just “talk.”
But Monday night, that idea officially became a reality when the BNA Bank Cotton States League North Division opened up play for the 2009 season.
“I just thought he was talking,” said Gardner Richey, a left fielder for the CSBL North’s Tupelo Thunder. “I didn’t know he was actually going to follow through with it.
“I’m glad he did. I think it’s going to be something good.”
Just over two months ago, Clark Richey started talking about a summer collegiate wooden-bat league in North Mississippi.
Fast forward to Monday night and Richey was happy to see an estimated 550 fans watch the Thunder and the Tallahatchie Rascals kick off the CSBL North’s inaugural season at the New Albany Sportsplex’s Legion Field.
The Rascals swept the doubleheader 3-1 and 7-0.
“We are, I would say, 65 percent of the way there,” Clark Richey said of his league’s progress in its first season. “We’re going to keep improving every game this season and just try to do a little bit more to make it fan friendly.”
BNA Bank President Bo Collins threw out the ceremonial first pitch; gospel group Paid In Full sang the national anthem.
“We’re so proud to be invited back,” said Paid in Full vocalist and New Albany native, Lance Moore. “I grew up playing T-ball and soccer here. This great Sportsplex New Albany has is just fantastic.”
Other notables in attendance were state senator Nicky Browning, Northeast Mississippi baseball coach Kent Farris and former Itawamba Community College baseball coach Roy Cresap.
As far as the actual first game, Tallahatchie honorary coach Tom Spencer said he was out there to win. Spencer coached Chris Basil, the Tallahatchie head coach, when Basil was 9 years old.
Both Spencer and Basil had something be proud of two hours after Tallahatchie starter Jon Andy Scott delivered the first pitch of the inaugural season to Ladarrius Cole at 6:15 p.m.
A couple pitches later and Cole found himself in the record books with the first CSBL North hit, a double to left center. Cole, who played at Itawamba Community College this spring, was 3 for 4 in Game 1.
“The Ladarrius kid … whew!” said the 73-year-old Spencer. “Wherever he plays, he’s a tough out. The boys in the dugout could tell he was hard to get out.”
Tallahatchie’s Brancy Cummins delivered the league’s first run with a base hit – the Rascals’ only hit in the game – to right that scored Ben Wallis in the bottom of the second. Cummins would score the Rascals’ second run on a passed ball that inning.
Scott, who struggled early getting his slider over the plate, picked up the win on the mound and Zane Treadaway earned the save.
“Once he started getting his slider over, he just gave them a lot of trouble,” Basil said.
Tupelo starter Chris Bennett was the tough-luck loser after allowing only one hit in going the distance.
“When you got nine hits and leave ducks on the pond like that, you’re not expected to win,” said Thunder head coach Shawn Hairald.
John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal