Rivalry would be good for all

Published 10:03 pm Friday, February 20, 2009

Thursday night’s baseball game between Sweet Water and Demopolis could well have been the beginning to a healthy rivalry. At least, it should have been.

The two schools are roughly 45 minutes apart with Sweet Water representing the south end of Marengo County while Demopolis inhabits the north.

Kindling the rivalry certainly makes sense from a geographical standpoint as the schools are the only two AHSAA institutions in Marengo County with baseball programs.

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Making the contest an annual event definitely suits the scheduling philosophy of Sweet Water coach Kevin Byrd, who likes to challenge his team as much as possible in its out-of-region games. Demopolis, a perennial playoff team in 5A, clearly fits that mold.

But the game can also be a good fit for Demopolis’ needs. Ben Ramer also likes his team to play tough games in its out-of-area schedule. And while the Bulldogs are only a 1A school, they are a scrappy group that knows how to find themselves in it at the end of ball games. Having to maintain intensity for the duration of the game is good practice for a squad Ramer constantly urges to win every inning.

But aside from its practicality, building the rivalry could be a great thing for both communities. There are a lot of friendships shared between staff and parents at both schools, which made Thursday night’s contest more enjoyable.

Given the considerable size and classification differential between the schools, there aren’t many sports in which they can compete with one another. A gridiron clash between the two, while intriguing, may not suit the needs of both. Getting together on the basketball court could have some mutual benefits. But competition on the diamond makes the most sense.

Aside from football, baseball is the biggest sport in Marengo County. That means that drawing out fans would be easier.

In a dreamer’s world, the schools could play a home-and-home series before heading to a rubber game at Scott Park in Linden. Get superintendents Luke Hallmark and Dr. Wayne Vickers involved, name the rivalry and put some kind of trophy on the line annually and you have something that can bring together two very proud school systems in the spirit of healthy competition every year.

Say what you will about the lopsided 16-6 score in Thursday’s affair, but smart money says that Sweet Water’s players won’t soon forget it. By the April 11 rematch in Demopolis, the Bulldogs will likely have worked out some of the kinks in their pitching staff and will almost certainly require the Tigers’ full, undivided attention.

Should they snag a win in that game — like it or not — a rivalry is born.