06/05/2009 – Daily News Record
Louisana Pitchers Among Key Players Written By Marcus Helton HARRISONBURG – Louisiana natives Clint Dempster and Drew Granier have been playing baseball together for so long that neither can truly imagine the idea of not doing so. That day will be a reality soon, though, and the pair is hoping to make their last go-around a good one. Dempster and Granier, both sophomore pitchers from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, will spend this summer playing for the Harrisonburg Turks before going their separate ways next fall. Harrisonburg opens its Valley Baseball League season today at Luray and opens its home schedule at 5 p.m. Saturday against New Market at James Madison University’s Long Field. While most of the Turks were just trying to get acquainted with their new teammates this week, Dempster and Granier didn’t have that problem. "We’ve been playing together since we started at about 5 or 6 years old," Granier said. "Little League, high school, college." That streak will end in the fall when Granier heads to the University of Louisiana-Monroe while Dempster goes to Nicholls State University (La.). Both did well in their final season together at Mississippi Gulf Coast. Dempster – a 6-foot, 183-pound left-hander – led all National Junior College Athletic Association pitchers with 101 strikeouts during the regular season. He finished with 113 to go with a 6-3 record and 1.28 ERA in a team-high 69 2/3 innings. He was named a first-team NJCAA All-American. "He’s always had the ability, it’s just it was his breakout season," Granier said. "Like, his freshman year he did real good and just caught a couple of tough breaks, and then this year he put everything together." Granier – who led the nation in K’s as a freshman – was no slouch himself, as the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder tallied a team-leading eight victories while throwing 63 innings this spring. Dempster and Granier were led to the Turks by MGCC coach Cooper Farris, who recently retired after 19 years at the school. Farris was on Harrisonburg’s staff when the Turks won the VBL title in 2000 and is in his ninth year as coach of the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod League. "They both may go in the [MLB] draft [next] week," Farris said. "Clint may go a little higher because he really came on this year and got better, and he’s a left-hander, too, that’s touching 92, you know? [Scouts] like those. And his slider is just about unhittable – he’ll bite the toe off that right-handed hitter. The only problem that they both have is they both try to overthrow sometimes and they lose their movement, but they both are pretty good pitchers." It’s no surprise then, that both are expected to contribute to Harrisonburg’s starting rotation, with Turks owner/manager Bob Wease saying Dempster will likely start today’s season-opener at Luray. "They’re pretty good," Wease said. "Dempster, of course, led the nation in strikeouts in junior college. Granier I tried to get last year. Both of those boys are quality pitchers, and both of them will do quite well out here." That is, as long as they can make it to the ballpark on time. Dempster and Granier arrived in Harrisonburg on Sunday after a 16-hour drive from Louisiana and are still figuring out their new surroundings. "Without that GPS, we wouldn’t know what to do," Granier joked. "It took us about an hour to find the field." Dempster and Granier grew up across the street from each other in Thibodaux, La., a town located in Cajun country, 70 miles southwest of New Orleans. "It’s a lot different [than Virginia]," Granier said. "Here, there’s all these hills and everything, but where we live, its just swamp. There’s not really much but swamps, trees and mosquitoes." The heat is also brutal, the players said – especially at night – making the Valley a welcome change. "To y’all it’s hot, but to us it’s cool," Dempster said. "We don’t have wind back home and y’all got wind, so at night time it feels better ’cause y’all don’t have the mosquitoes or bugs and all that." At Thibodaux High School, the pair led the Tigers to back-to-back district championships, as well as the second state tournament appearance in school history. Granier was the team’s No. 1 starter, while Dempster was its No. 3, and when they weren’t pitching, Granier played center field, with Dempster in right. Now, they have only the next several weeks to try to add to their success together. "I’m looking forward to the summer," Dempster said. "Hopefully, we can come out and do our best and show people who we are." Their old coach doesn’t have any doubt that they will. "They’re both from Thibodaux, Louisiana, which is about as far south as you can get," Farris said. "It’ll be good for them to see what’s out there, and hopefully this will be good exposure for both of them."