Let’s play three … WC, VHS play first today

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 5, 2002

[03/05/02]Vicksburg High coach Jamie Creel has said six wins in the expanded Division 4-5A schedule will be good enough to earn a playoff spot.

He’ll get his first chance tonight against his Gators’ biggest rival.

The No. 12 Gators (5-4) and top-ranked Warren Central (8-1) square off for the first of three division contests in a game moved up two hours to 5 p.m. because of the threat of another cold night. A junior varsity game is scheduled for 7.

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Creel was the driving force behind having the division schools VHS, WC, Clinton and Forest Hill play each other three times.

The thinking was that a dominant pitcher such as WC’s Taylor Tankersley in 2001 can control two games. Now, teams have to have more than one dominating starter.

“You have to have at least two quality starters and then go from there with it,” said Creel, whose team is one of three from 4-5A that’s ranked. “It’s probably best we play Warren Central the first go-round for mentality purposes so we don’t have any mental letdowns toward the end of the year.”

Without lowly Greenville and Gentry in the division, tonight’s winner gets a boost in a division where two perennial playoff teams will be left out.

“There are going to be two pretty good ballclubs at the house,” WC coach Randy Broome said. “There’s a chance that Clinton will be ranked soon. That makes four ranked teams and two will stay home. That has to excite you.”

WC senior Carl Upton is scheduled to start tonight. He threw in relief on Friday to get a few innings work. The Vikings were rained out on Saturday.

Upton is 2-1 with a 1.31 ERA in 16 innings. He has struck out 18.

“We’re going to have to hit the ball and execute on the basepaths,” VHS center fielder J.J. Brown said. “Stealing bases will be a big key, but we have to get on to have a chance.”

Creel would not say who his starting pitcher would be. He threw freshman Justin Boler in the first matchup last year and has most of his staff rested.

Offensively, the teams enter as statistical mirror images, but get there in very different ways.

Each team is hitting slightly over .300 and for Creel, it’s the first time his team has been over the .300 mark in his three years.

John Rohrer leads the Gators with a .423 average, while junior Justin Henry is second at .419. David Stagg, who began the season 0-for-11, is third at .375.

The strength, though, is speed. VHS has 62 steals in nine games.

“We’ll try to get them out,” WC sophomore catcher John Rice Pettway said. “We’ll need a quick delivery … and I’ll try my best.”

WC relies on a lineup loaded with power. Ole Miss signee Brian Pettway leads the team with a .522 average, four doubles, three home runs and 10 RBIs, while Meridian Community College signee Joey Lieberman leads the team with 14 RBIs. John Morgan Mims is hitting .440 with a pair of home runs.

“They have proven to be one of the greatest offensive teams in the state over the past three years,” Creel said. “I don’t think they have a weak spot in their lineup and the game I saw, they scored 10 runs in one inning.

“You have to hope to field ground balls, if they hit any, and hope the wind is blowing in … .”