Warren Central wins Round 2 vs. VHS

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Justin Henry of Vicksburg High slides into home ahead of WC catcher John Rice Pettway to give the Gators an early 1-0 lead, but the Vikings came back in the fifth inning, with Tom Corbin (15), below, scoring WC’s seventh run in a 7-1 win.(The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[03/23/02]Vicksburg High’s slump continued Friday night, and so did Warren Central’s winning streak over the Gators.

The Vikings blew open a close game with four runs in the top of the fifth inning, and Andrew Simmons allowed only two hits in six innings as WC took Round 2 of the season series, 7-1.

Jeff Mitchell went 2-for-3 with a two-run double, Joey Lieberman had an RBI triple to trigger the big rally, and Jeremy Ferguson went 2-for-4 with a solo homer as WC (14-4, 4-0 Division 4-5A) won its fourth straight over VHS (9-10, 1-3).

The win gives WC a three-game lead over the third-place Gators with five division games remaining, but WC coach Randy Broome wasn’t taking anything for granted yet.

“It’s big for us now to go 4-0. We’ve got to keep on taking care of our business. That’s another big district win,” WC coach Randy Broome said. “We’ve still got work to do. Again, that’s the great thing about this district. We’ve got to keep on keeping on … If we put up seven wins, then I’ll say yeah, we’re in.’ But right now we’ve still got some business to take care of.”

The loss put the Gators back into a deep hole in the playoff race. They’ll face second-place Clinton, which was 2-1 in division play before Friday’s game against Forest Hill, on Tuesday.

“Tuesday’s a must-win, regardless of whatever happened tonight … If we lose that one, we’re in a real big hole. Then we’ve got to have help from somebody else,” VHS coach Jamie Creel said. ” … Tuesday will put us in a gigantic hole, Grand Canyon-style, if we don’t pull that one out.”

VHS has struggled at the plate lately, managing only 15 hits in its last four games, but the Gators were able to scratch out a run without getting a hit in the bottom of the first against WC.

Justin Henry led off with a walk, then stole second and advanced to third when John Rice Pettway’s throw sailed into centerfield. After J.J. Brown flied out, John Rohrer hit a grounder to first. WC’s Carl Upton threw home in time to get Henry, but the ball was knocked loose as Henry slid into the plate to give the Gators a 1-0 lead.

Gator starter Chris Middleton kept the Vikings in check through the first two innings, and appeared to have pitched out of a jam in the third when he got Upton to hit a two-out fly ball to right with runners on first and second.

VHS right fielder John Rohrer settled under the ball at the warning track, but it bounced out of his glove. John Morgan Mims and Lieberman scored to give WC a 2-1 lead.

“We started off pretty good, playing good defense and everything looked like it was going our way. After the third we were still in it … then in the fifth we fell apart. We acted all intimidated up there at the plate and everybody acted like, this is Warren Central, we’re not going to win anyway,’ ” VHS catcher Ryan Grey said. “Once we got in a hole we just acted like we couldn’t win.”

Middleton, who threw seven innings in a win over Forest Hill on Tuesday, left after the third inning. Henry relieved him to start the fourth, and Jeremy Ferguson greeted Henry with a leadoff homer to extend the lead to 3-1.

Then, in the top of the fifth, the ceiling fell in on the Gators.

Brian Pettway led off with a single, then Lieberman sliced a liner to right field. Rohrer dove for the ball and missed, and it rolled all the way to the warning track. Lieberman ended up on third, and scored on an error on a grounder by Upton to give WC a 5-1 lead.

“John’s a hustler. John thought he could’ve caught that ball, and he probably could have. He didn’t happen to make that play … and it was nice hustle on Joey’s part to get to third,” Creel said.

Corbin followed Upton with a single, and Mitchell doubled to left two batters later to make it 7-1.

The hit served as a painkiller for Mitchell. He got excited when the Vikings put a couple of runners on in the fourth inning and jumped and hit his head on the dugout.

“(Trainers) told me I’d be all right to play, so he just patched me up and let me go … I’m not feeling it at all,” said Mitchell, who was sporting a napkin-sized bandage on the top of his head.

A pair of left-handers, John Hendrix and Justin Boler, shut down the Vikings in the last two innings but the Gators were unable to do anything at the plate.

Simmons didn’t allow a hit after the third inning. Brian Pettway relieved him in the seventh and retired the Gators in order, including two on strikeouts.

“I really thought we were ready to play tonight,” Creel said. “We did some things, played with a lot of enthusiasm early. Once you make mistakes and come down off that horse, it’s really a big fall and we took a big fall when we didn’t rebound and hit.”