Young Lady Vikes’ state tournament run comes to end

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 23, 2000

BRANDON The Warren Central Lady Vikes’ improbable run to the state tournament ended Saturday with a sense of satisfaction and thoughts of an ever-so-bright future.

The Lady Vikes (24-14) lost back-to-back games to state powers Moss Point, 14-3, and Meridian, 8-1, and finished the season third in the state, all while playing with just one senior.

“We expect to be back on these fields, or whatever fields (the state tournament) is being held at,” said sophomore outfielder Katie Barnett, who made 14 putouts in three games from left-center. “We’re coming back. Don’t think we’re giving up after just one year. No way.”

Warren Central made it further than any team in school history and the run to get there was as impressive as the final results.

WC, forced to beat Greenville by nine runs to secure home-field advantage on the final day of the season, beat the Honey Bees by 10. An opening round sweep of Starkville followed, then a dramatic series win over rival Madison Central to earn a berth in the state’s final four.

WC coach Lucy Young, who set a goal of 20 wins and the division championship, said she never imagined her team would reach the state finals and win the North State championship.

“None of what happened today undermines the accomplishments we made this season,” Young said. “They say it’s not where you finish, but where you end, and I think the way we ended was almost storybook.

On Friday night, WC beat Grenada, 10-8, to advance to the winners’ bracket, but on Saturday, the Lady Vikes were simply outmatched. Since the state tournament’s inception in 1988, Moss Point has won four state titles and Meridian notched three, including last year’s championship.

“The main difference is that we didn’t hit today,” said Young, whose team had a total of nine hits in the two games. “You try to come up with all the reasons why and then correct them, but sometimes it just … didn’t work for us today.”

First it was Moss Point, who, after WC pulled to within 6-3 in the bottom of the sixth, exploded for eight runs including nine singles in a row to win 14-3. The Lady Vikes had just five hits, three of which came in the sixth.

Meridian lost to Moss Point in the tournament opener then bounced WC. Laura Bowles’ two-run homer highlighted a six-run third inning in which the Lady Vikes made three errors.

“We got up on them early and it’s difficult to come back,” Meridian coach Thad George said. “Then, all of a sudden, they quit hitting and we quit hitting. For a young team, they did a good job.”

Ashley Chaney had a pair of singles for the Lady Vikes against Meridian and LaShanda Williams, who also had a hit, scored the lone run on a fourth-inning fielder’s choice by Anna Mitchell.

Nineteen of the 21 outs for WC were in the infield, including eight outs on dribblers right back to the pitcher.

In the Moss Point (31-5) game, the Tigers cranked out 21 hits in building a 3-0 lead after the third inning. In the fifth, Ladrena Larry scored on a four-base error, then Monique Cowen and Stephanie Wilson, who went 4-for-4, hit back-to-back RBI singles for a 6-0 Moss Point lead.

WC, as it has done all year, refused to give in. Barnett led off the bottom of the sixth with a walk, then Heather Barnes, the lone senior, singled and Keisha Blue singled to load the bases.

Pinch-hitter Tranyce Peoples hit a two-RBI single and Candice McKay hit an RBI sacrifice fly to make it 6-3.

The Lady Tigers blew the game open with eight in the top of the seventh for a 14-3 lead. WC went quietly in the seventh.

The Lady Vikes, however, did not go quietly through the tournament and that bodes well for the future.

“I would have liked to go out with a ring, but it doesn’t matter,” Barnes said. “Just playing with this team is the best thing I could have asked for.”

Young added, “I asked all of them after the game if they wanted to come back here next year. Every one of them said yes.'”