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WC puts Gators in The Tank, 10-0

Joey Lieberman, right, is congratulated by Warren Central teammates Kevin Coker, middle, and Chris Hite after his three-run homer in the fourth inning. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

[03/07/01] The only bad thing Warren Central’s Taylor Tankersley did Tuesday night helped set the stage for his most dominating performance of the season.

The senior left-hander struck out 12 and walked one in a five-inning no-hitter as the Vikings beat Vicksburg High, 10-0, in a battle of undefeated archrivals.

Kevin Coker went 4-for-4 with a double and an RBI and Joey Lieberman hit a three-run homer for the Vikings (8-0), who took the first step toward winning their fourth straight division title.

Tankersley, known as “The Tank,” spoiled his chance at a perfect game on the first batter he faced. But walking VHS leadoff man Justin Henry after starting with an 0-2 count put Tankersley in the right mindset.

“I was mad after that,” he said.

Tankersley (2-0) went on to retire the next 15 batters, putting on a show for the half-dozen or so scouts on hand to see him. The Gators (6-1) put only three balls in play.

“He’s been on top of his game,” WC coach Sam Temple said of Tankersley. “He was in control … he just did a fabulous job.”

At one point, Tankersley whiffed seven straight, mixing up his fastball with his trademark breaking ball. In one sequence, he threw a heater that registered 91 mph, then followed with a 66 mph curve.

“You have to keep them guessing,” he said with a wry smile.

That’s what VHS coach Jamie Creel did before the game. He didn’t reveal who his starting pitcher would be until game time. He went with freshman left-hander Justin Boler (2-1), who struck out five, walked three and allowed four hits in 21/3 innings.

“He was the bright spot in the game for us,” said Creel, who had planned to use the off-speed specialist for two or three innings. “He matched a great pitcher pitch for pitch, and I’m excited about that. He did exactly what I asked of him. He’ll be back to give them trouble for the next three or four years.”

Creel said his players let down after failing to score in the first inning with the heart of the lineup up after Henry stole second with no outs.

“What hurt us was a leader of our team shows emotion after he strikes out, and I don’t hear another word from our dugout after that,” he said.

Another problem was defense, which had been the Gators’ strong suit. They had a total of four errors in their first six games. They had that many by the third inning Tuesday night.

“It certainly wasn’t characteristic of this team,” Creel said.

WC capitalized on every miscue, taking a 2-0 lead without a hit in the second inning. Lieberman reached base on a high flyball to first that was misplayed, then scored on a bad throw to first after John Morgan Mims’ bunt. Mims, who went all the way to third on the overthrow, scored on a throwdown to second as Tyler DeRossette stole the base.

It was more of the same in the third. Brent Towne hit a leadoff single, then scored after a pickoff attempt went to the fence and the throw to third was off target. After Lieberman was hit by a pitch and stole second, Mims made it 4-0 with an RBI double down the left-field line. Creel then pulled Boler and put in Chris Middleton.

But the WC bats stayed alive after that.

In the fourth, after Chris Hite was hit and Coker singled, Brian Pettway hit an RBI single. Then, with two outs, Lieberman swatted a three-run moonshot just inside the left-field foul pole to make it 8-0.

In the fifth, with Eric “Boo” Hardy on the mound, the Vikings loaded the bases on walks, then got an RBI single from Coker and a run-scoring groundout from Pettway to end it on the 10-run mercy rule.

“Our hitters made the right adjustments, and that makes me happy,” Temple said, adding, “Coker has just been unconscious for us and a lot of our guys are feeding off him.”

As for Boler, Temple said, “My hat’s off to that ninth-grader. He’s got a great future.”

The teams meet again March 27.

“We’ll live to fight again,” Creel said. “It won’t be like this next time.”