Fired-up Upton makes Gators pay

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 6, 2002

Joey Lieberman (7) and John Morgan Mims (14) of Warren Central get congratulated by Chris Hite after scoring on Carl Upton’s three-run double in the first inning. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[03/06/02]Carl Upton let his right arm do the talking after hearing a little too much from the Vicksburg Gators.

Upton, a senior who took the first loss of his first high school career on Feb. 23, said several of the Gators were getting on him about the loss.

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He responded by twirling a four-hitter and had a key first-inning double in top-ranked Warren Central’s 6-2 win over Vicksburg (5-5, 0-1 Division 4-5A).

“A lot of Vicksburg players were messing with me about the loss,” said Upton, who allowed runs in the fifth and sixth innings Tuesday night. “It fired me up. All I said was keep talking.’ ”

It didn’t hurt that Upton was staked to a 6-0 lead after the first inning, either.

His three-RBI double highlighted the top of the first, in which the first six Vikings (9-1, 1-0) scored off of Vicksburg junior Justin Henry.

“That’s tough to overcome,” said Vicksburg coach Jamie Creel, whose team will host division rival Clinton on Friday. “We showed a lot of character, though. We could have gotten beaten 50-0 the way this dang thing started out.”

Henry, who settled down after the first to allow just two more hits, walked leadoff batter Chris Hite on four pitches. John Morgan Mims followed with a single and a walk to Ole Miss signee Brian Pettway loaded the bases.

Joey Lieberman singled in Hite, and Upton delivered a base-clearing double for a 4-0 lead with no outs. Designated hitter Tom Corbin added the finishing touch with a two-run home run to left field for a 6-0 WC lead.

“We just jumped on him in the first inning,” Corbin said.

Henry got the next three batters to end the first. He went on to strike out eight and allowed a second-inning single to Mims and an Upton single in the sixth.

“I think we came out ready to rock and roll,” said WC coach Randy Broome, who recorded his first win over the Gators as a head coach. “Then Justin Henry comes back and pitches a great baseball game.”

Upton paced the WC offense with a single, double and three RBIs, while Mims had two singles and Corbin’s home run.

Meanwhile, hits against Upton were hard to come by. Vicksburg got singles from Henry, Matt Middleton, Ryan Grey and Paul Gorney, but didn’t threaten until late in the game.

Upton (3-1), who came in with a 1.31 ERA, struck out four and allowed one earned run.

“He was around the plate all night,” Grey said. “He was throwing a good curve and a knuckleball or forkball or something. He threw strikes and that’s what you have to do as a pitcher.”

Vicksburg stranded a runner at second in the second and threatened again in the fourth. Josh McBride reached on an error and advanced to third on Henry’s single with two outs. Upton coaxed J.J. Brown into a fielder’s choice groundout to end the fourth and keep WC up 6-0.

David Stagg led off the fifth with a walk and scored the first VHS run on a Middleton flyout to end Upton’s shutout.

Brown reached on an error to lead off the sixth, then he stole second and third and scored on John Rohrer’s groundout to cut the lead to 6-2.

Vicksburg stole three bases to up its total to 65, but Broome said Upton’s ability to keep the speedy Gators off base paid dividends.

“That’s big-time,” Broome said. In the seventh, Upton hit McBride with two outs and Middleton followed with a single. Henry grounded out to end the game.

“He can still get better, and we’ve seen him pitch better,” Broome said of Upton. “He’s going to go out every night and give you a shot to win.”

The Vikings will play at division rival Forest Hill on Friday, while Vicksburg will host Clinton, also on Friday.

“Round one went to them,” Creel said. “But we are not TKO’d yet. We’ll take our punch in the eye and go home.”