3 years later, Lady Vikes win division title

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 29, 2002

[03/29/02]CLINTON When Warren Central started its fast-pitch program three years ago, the main goal was progress.

After Thursday night, the goal will be maintaining a champion.

All six of the Lady Vikes’ hits went for extra bases as they rolled to a 5-0 lead, then held off a late Clinton rally to preserve a 5-3 win and clinch their first fast-pitch division championship.

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“We felt like we accomplished the biggest feat in the history of our program when we beat them before, but tonight was even sweeter than that,” WC coach Lucy Young said. “We were on top of our game tonight.”

Marilyn Landers and Katie Barnett each went 2-for-4 with a double and a triple for WC (7-2, 3-0 Division 4-5A), and Barnett scored three runs and drove in another. Ashley Chaney was 1-for-4 with a double and three RBIs.

Lauren Anderson (15-2) held the Lady Arrows scoreless for the first five innings and struck out six.

“On Tuesday we didn’t have a very good game and we just came out and hit the ball tonight,” said Landers, who also scored two runs.

WC will likely host Northwest Rankin in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs, beginning April 13. The Lady Vikes will get to see Northwest before then, in a home game April 6. WC also has a division game remaining against Vicksburg, but it won’t affect the playoff race.

“We’ve got some schedule left. I just hope we get even stronger heading into the playoffs,” Young said.

Thursday’s game had playoff-like drama in the last two innings.

WC led 5-0 after 51/2 innings, but Clinton scored in the bottom of the sixth on Melody Russell’s RBI triple. In the seventh, singles by Leslie Hutchinson and Danielle Davis as well as two WC errors helped Clinton cut it to 5-3 and left runners at first and second with two outs and cleanup hitter Laura Leigh Reese at the plate.

“We were just too anxious. We could have fielded the ball fine, but we were so ready to get the game over with that we forgot to take it a step at a time,” said Barnett, WC’s catcher, who had one of the errors on a snap throw to first.

Representing the winning run, Reese got a good pitch from Anderson and drove it to deep center. Landers quickly settled under it and hauled it in for the final out.

It was a replay of the first Clinton-WC meeting, when Reese flew out to end another late Clinton rally.

“I was nervous … ,” Landers said. “It felt so good catching that ball for the last out.”

WC took a 3-0 lead after three innings despite getting only two hits.

Barnett delivered a one-out triple in the top of the first and scored on a groundout by Chaney to give the Lady Vikes a 1-0 lead. In the third, Landers tripled and scored on a sacrifice attempt by Chaney, who was safe when the first baseman dropped the ball. Barnett, who had walked, went to third and later scored on a passed ball to make it 3-0.

“We knew we had to get the jump on them, because they’re a scrappy bunch,” Barnett said.

Clinton (14-6, 2-2) loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the third, but Anderson got cleanup hitter Laura Leigh Reese to fly out to left to end the inning. It was the only ball the Lady Arrows hit out of the infield in the first five innings.

“We’ve played them twice and ain’t hit the ball either time,” Clinton coach Mike Chambless said. “It’s like we don’t get a fire until late. It’s like we walk through it and think we can turn it on anytime, and then it’s too late.”

WC extended the lead to 5-0 in the fifth when Landers, Barnett and Chaney hit consecutive two-out doubles. Eighth-grader Alex Hawkins replaced Clinton starter Stacie Creel with one out in the sixth and shut down the Lady Vikes the rest of the way, allowing a double to Cookie Johnson before retiring the last five batters in order.