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Vikings nip Brookhaven in 10, rip 4A champ Cleveland in 5

Warren Central players cheer from the dugout during the 10th inning. (The Vicksburg Post/MARK THORNTON)

[02/19/01] BROOKHAVEN Brian Pettway helped beat Brookhaven in the top of the 10th and in the bottom of the 10th. But the junior was just one of a handful of heroes for Warren Central, which opened its season with a 3-2 extra-inning thriller over the Panthers on Saturday.

The Vikings (2-0) followed with a 12-2 five-inning victory over defending Class 4A state champion Cleveland.

In the opener, starting pitcher Taylor Tankersley and reliever Pettway led off the 10th with singles. Brookhaven coach Randy Spring elected to intentionally walk Brent Towne. That loaded the bases for John Morgan Mims, who laced a two-run shot to left to give WC a 3-1 lead.

“I was ready to get it over with,” said Mims, who went 2-for-4.

But Brookhaven wasn’t.

Pettway struck out the first two in the bottom of the inning, but Daniel Boyd the No. 9 hitter singled, Cayce Wallace walked and Aaron Oberschmidt hit an RBI single. That put runners at first and third for the Panthers’ top hitter, Fred Perkins, who was intentionally walked in his previous two at-bats.

Pettway struck him out swinging.

“I would like to see those last three on the (radar) gun,” WC coach Sam Temple said after the game.

The readings were: 91, 92 and 92 mph. That was a much different look than they got from Tankersley, who used his off-speed pitches to strike out 11 over the first five innings, working his way out of trouble in almost every one. The Alabama signee allowed five singles, two of which stayed in the infield, and walked one before handing the ball to Pettway, who struck out four and allowed six hits in five innings.

“I had Taylor on an 80-pitch count,” Temple said. “He didn’t want to come out.”

There wouldn’t have been a 10th inning if not for a diving catch by WC center fielder Chris Hite with one out and runners at first and second in the bottom of the seventh.

“What a catch,” Temple said. “That could have been it.”

Spring thought it was.

“When (Ben) Goza hit that one, I didn’t think there was any way (Hite) would get to it, especially with how muddy it was out there,” Spring said. “That was a game-winner.”

Hite, running full-speed to his right, dove at the last second and made a splash about 15 feet in front of the fence as he came down with the ball.

“It was worth it,” Hite said, looking down at his wet, muddy pants.

“It was just instinct. I started sprinting as soon as it came off the bat.”

In the ninth, WC’s bats came alive. Carl Upton doubled to left and Kyle Simmons followed with a double deep to center to drive in the first run of the game.

It looked as if Pettway would make the 1-0 lead hold up after getting two outs and working the count to 0-2 on Brookhaven starter Miguel Banks, who whiffed in his first three at-bats. But Banks, who pitched nine innings before making way for Wallace, sent a single to right to tie it.

“When that happened, I thought we’d win. I thought we had the momentum,” Spring said, adding that all three times the teams met over the summer were one-run games. WC won two of those.

Temple, who will call the game from the dugout this year while assistant Randy Broome coaches from third, was happy to start with a challenging game.

“So many times, we’ve played opening games and won big, but it didn’t help us,” he said. “Brookhaven is one of the better teams in the state. They’re ranked 15th and they’ll probably go higher.”

WC 12, Cleveland 2

Towne had three hits, including a double and two RBIs, while Joey Lieberman and Pettway drove in a pair of runs apiece as the Vikings found their offense against the defending 4A champs.

Kevin Coker and Tyler DeRossette both had RBIs for WC, which had 12 hits. Upton picked up the win, striking out five and walking none while giving up nine hits in five innings.