Warren Central wins North State Championship

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 7, 2001

[05/06/01] Warren Central is two wins away from the goal it set at the beginning of the season: a state championship.

The Vikings (34-3) beat Tupelo, 5-1, Saturday to complete a two-game sweep in the North State championship series and run their postseason record to 6-0.

Carl Upton, who made his mark with his bat early in the season, gave his second straight dominating pitching performance of the playoffs, and Taylor Tankersley, better known for his dominance on the mound, delivered the biggest hit of the day.

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“This is a special bunch,” WC coach Sam Temple said. “The path we’ve traveled, I feel like we’ve earned it … and now we’re ready to take a shot at a ring.”

WC will host Hattiesburg, which swept Meridian in the South State series, Thursday.

Upton (11-0) struck out six, walked one, scattered six hits and allowed just one run against the wave (30-6), which was averaging 10 runs during a 23-game winning streak before falling to Tankersley, 4-3, on Thursday.

He struck out Tupelo’s top two before getting a long flyout from Mac Godwin to end it.

“I was throwing as hard as I can,” Upton said just after getting piled on during the celebration. “I just had to control the ball.”

Upton helped himself with an RBI single in the first inning as the Vikings took advantage of two walks and a Joey Lieberman RBI groundout to take a 2-0 lead.

“The momentum swung their way with that and we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we got,” said Tupelo coach Larry Harmon, whose team stranded eight baserunners. “We had been getting key hits all season. We felt good about our chances.”

In the second, after Tyler DeRossette drew a leadoff walk and John Morgan Mims beat out an infield single, Tankersley ripped a two-out, two-run double to left field to give the Vikings a 4-0 lead.

In the sixth, after Mims led off with a triple, Tupelo pitcher Sparky Smith (11-1) intentionally walked Brian Pettway to get to Brent Towne. Towne delivered a run-scoring single.

Upton took care of the rest.

“You have to give so much credit to Carl,” Temple said. “We thought he would match up well with all of their left-handers. He had great command.”

Upton, who pitched a shutout in the second-round series-clinching game at Madison Central, got big pitches when he needed them. He fanned Jon Hancock with men on second and third in the second inning, then got out of a similar situation in the third by whiffing Kevin Caldwell.

The Wave’s lone run came in the sixth inning on Dontay Smith’s single to left. That came after bang-bang plays at second and third brought Temple onto the field to argue the call, so many Viking fans contended that Upton actually had another shutout and two bad calls.

“Carl’s the man,” said Tankersley, who had thrown eight straight shutouts before Thursday. “We don’t have a No. 1 right now. We’re just working off each other right now.”

Now, Temple’s squad will have to face Hattiesburg, which has three Division I-signee pitchers who throw in the 90-mph range.

“We’re just going to have to chalk the lines and get after it,” he said.