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Hard-hitting Tupelo smacks Gators out of playoffs

Corey Hudson of Vicksburg High keeps his eye on Tupelo pitcher Sparky Smith in the first inning. The Golden Wave won, 15-2, to win the opening-round playoff series, 2-0. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[04/23/01] Tupelo’s big bats spoiled Jamie Creel’s strategy.

The Golden Wave (29-4) scored five runs in the first inning en route to a 15-2 win that ended Vicksburg High’s season Friday night.

The Gators (23-7) lost the opener at Tupelo, 8-5, Thursday night and got back to Vicksburg about 3 Friday morning.

“They struggled to get up for school, so yes, they were tired,” Creel said.

Creel liked his team’s chances if it could have forced a deciding Game 3 since they would have been catching Tupelo’s players in the same road-weary state Saturday.

“That’s what we were hoping for,” Creel said. “But you have to give them all of the credit. They’re the best hitting team we’ve faced.

“Their (Nos.) 3 and 4 (Mac Godwin and Kevin Caldwell) are two of the best hitters I’ve seen.”

Their No. 7 hitter, Jonathan Hancock, struck the biggest blow this time. His three-run homer off Chris Middleton (4-2) to left gave Tupelo a 5-0 lead in the first.

The Gators battled back in the bottom of the inning, pulling within three, 5-2, on Ryan Grey’s RBI single and Paul Gorney’s sacrifice fly.

Sophomore shortstop Justin Henry went 2-for-3.

But Sparky Smith (9-0) kept the Gators off the board after that. He allowed just five hits in the mercy-rule shortened five-run game.

The Wave lit up three VHS pitchers for 12 hits.

“That’s what you have to do on the road,” Tupelo coach Larry Harmon said. “We knew they would be tired and emotionally down, so we came out swinging.”

Still, Harmon was “very surprised” that his team 10-runned the Gators. Only Warren Central had beaten VHS by that much this year.

“They were hot coming into the playoffs,” said Harmon, whose team has won 21 in a row. “We just stayed hot.

“We wanted to take care of business so we can move on toward our goal of winning a state championship.”

That’s something Creel believes is “very possible.”

Davis Bond and Godwin hit back-to-back RBI doubles in the second to chase Middleton and Caldwell greeted Henry with a run-scoring single.

Back-to-back VHS errors in the fourth opened the door for another Bond double that drove in two runs then Godwin, the first batter freshman left-hander Justin Boler faced, followed with a two-run single.

Even though it was the first time this season VHS lost consecutive games, Creel was upbeat when he talked about the future.

“I’m proud of our guys’ season and all of their accomplishments,” he said. “We’ve got a lot coming back and if we continue that unity we created this year, we have good things in store for us.”

Catcher Mitchell Beauman, the Gators’ lone senior, said, “We had a great season. We proved a lot and showed a lot of heart.

“The guys coming back will only get better and better. I wish the best for their futures.”

As for his future, Beauman is hoping to catch an opportunity to play college ball somewhere.

“That’s what I’m hoping and praying for,” he said. “I love this game more than anything.”