South Mississippi will play host to some of the state’s top softball teams this weekend.
Due to ongoing expansion at the Gulfport Sportsplex, college teams won’t be a part of this weekend’s fourth annual Mississippi Gulf Coast Softball Classic. But fear not, softball fans: There will still be plenty of softball action at the Coast’s largest youth sports facility.
This year’s field includes Class 4A runner-up West Lauderdale, 4A champion North Pike, 5A runner-up West Harrison, 5A champion Neshoba Central, 6A runner-up South Panola and 6A champion Harrison Central. Other Coast programs include host school St. Patrick, Ocean Springs, Hancock, Pearl River Central, East Central, St. Martin, Long Beach, Our Lady Academy, Moss Point, D’Iberville and Vancleave. Non-Coast participants include Lawrence County, Clarkdale, Petal, Oak Grove, DeSoto Central and Clinton.
“If you’re a softball enthusiast, it’s a great opportunity to come out and see some of the best talent in the state,” Gulfport director of leisure services David D’Aquilla said. “The biggest (Mississippi Gulf Coast Softball Classic) ever was 32 teams so this is right up there with what we’ve done.”
St. Patrick is the sponsor of this year’s prep-only Classic.
“It’s really great because the thing about the Classic is it’s definitely the premier tournament of the South,” said St. Patrick coach Cullen Hawkins, who has taken over head coaching duties this season from long-time coach Tommy Castanedo. “It gets all the teams together and it’s a great way to allow all the colleges to come out and see all the players in one spot. There’s a ton of good talent.”
Like several other Coast programs that are perennial title contenders, the Irish like to push themselves in non-region play to prep for a likely long postseason run. St. Patrick will play 6A Hancock at 5 p.m. and then Neshoba Central at 3 p.m. Saturday.
“This gets us a feel for where we’re at. When you play for St. Patrick you expect to contend,” Hawkins said. “When we play Philadelphia later on, they’re on a different level than a lot of what we’ll see in region. This will prepare us for down the line.”
The action runs from 3-7 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Gulfport Sportsplex softball fields 1-4. Tickets are $5 per day.
Mississippi Gulf Coast Softball Classic
North Pike/Ocean Springs
Pearl River Central/East Central
West Harrison/South Panola
St. Martin/Long Beach
Harrison Central/Lawrence County
Pearl River Central/D’Iberville
Clarkdale/Our Lady Academy
South Panola/Oak Grove
Neshoba Central/North Pike
East Central/DeSoto Central
Lawrence County/St. Martin
Neshoba Central/St. Patrick
Harrison Central/DeSoto Central