Lady Vikes win series hard way, head to North State championship

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 18, 2000

Heather Garrard, left, gets congratulated by Marilyn Landers, Candice McKay and Rebecca Chick (7) after Garrard’s two-out, two-run home run made it 7-4 in the sixth inning of Game 2 at Madison Central. (The Vicksburg Post/MARK THORNTON)

MADISON Left for dead after the first game, the Warren Central Lady Vikes pulled off a “Miracle in Madison” on Tuesday.

After losing the opener 8-2, WC (24-12) won two straight games, 7-4 and 13-3, over powerful Madison Central to win the best-of-three series and advance to the North State championship Friday night at 7:30 against Grenada at Brandon’s Shiloh Park.

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“We owed them from the last time they beat us by two runs,” Heather Garrard said. “They deserved to get beat and we did it.”

The comeback was so special because the Lady Vikes were pummeled in the first game when nothing seemed to go right for them. In the top of the seventh in that first game and Madison leading 8-0, Marilyn Landers hit a two-run, inside-the-park home run. She finished the day with a pair of home runs, a double and six RBIs.

“We were getting people on base, but we couldn’t seem to plate anybody,” said WC coach Lucy Young, whose team had only advanced past the first round once. “When Marilyn hit the home run and we scored a couple runs, I think it broke the ice and we all thought, yes, we can do this.’ ”

And they did.

After committing five errors in the bottom of the sixth and facing Garrard, Madison coach Derek Topic pulled his right fielder in just behind the third baseman. Garrard lifted a line drive that rolled all the way to the fence a distant 300 feet for a two-run, inside-the-park home run.

“I had seen her against Starkville and she kept getting those little hits,” Topic said. “I’ll take giving up one home run over 12 little hits any day.”

Hayley Martin, who pitched all 21 innings, retired the Lady Jags quietly in the final inning to force the deciding third game.

“Our hitting, especially in the last two games, was atrocious,” Topic said. “Two of our three best hitters may have hit the ball hard once or twice. When you have that, you are not going to win.”

A staunch Lady Vikes’ defense held Katie Rankin, who came into the series hitting .433, to 2-for-12, and held Alex Rucker (.408) to 1-for-10.

It was the WC offense that stole the show in the final game.

Landers broke open the scoring in the third inning with a grand slam for a 4-0 lead. Lyn Strawn and Katie Barnett also scored on a Garrard RBI fielder’s choice for a 6-0 lead.

“They had kind of bad attitudes, but most people do when they don’t play very well,” Landers said. “I’m glad they made it this far, but even happier we made it farther.”

Madison added one run in the fourth, but WC put three more on the board, highlighted by a Strawn RBI single, to open a commanding 9-2 lead.

The biggest Warren Central error of the night came after the Lady Vikes, leading 12-2, retired the hosts in the bottom of the sixth inning.

They began celebrating near first base, but the celebration was premature in regular-season games a 10-run mercy rule would have been in effect, but not during the playoffs.

After Martin retired Madison quietly in the bottom of the seventh, the real celebration began.

“I really am in shock,” said Young, who will lose just one senior from this year’s club. “These kids are young in age, but have played softball for a long time.

“They are good little ball players.”

Garrard finished the three-game series with four singles, a home run and four RBIs, while freshman Keisha Blue had five hits and two RBIs and Ashley Chaney belted three singles and a triple.

The Lady Vikes will have to deal with another scheduling conflict for the North State championship. The series is scheduled for 7:30 on Friday night, the same time as WC’s biggest regular-season football game in recent memory.

Several players are in the band, but Young does not see a problem with having a full squad.

“They’ll play ball because this is the state playoffs,” Young said. “As bad as we feel for them to miss one of their activities, it would not be near as detrimental to the band to miss those players as it would be for us.

“We know (the band director) will be understanding about that. We have a very good working relationship with all our sports and the band.

“I just hope he’ll be as understanding as he has been in the past.”