Vikings outlast Temple, Arrows in 9-inning thriller

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 3, 2002

[04/03/02]The bottom of the lineup came through in the bottom of the ninth, and Warren Central wound up at the top of its division again.

Jeremy Ferguson’s double to left field tied it, then he scored on a bad throw to third to beat ninth-ranked Clinton, 8-7, for the No. 5 Vikings’ fifth straight division championship.

“I never would have thunk it,” joked WC coach Randy Broome, who celebrated his 29th birthday with a victory dousing from his players. “Looking at this division and the way we started … this is huge.”

What made it even bigger was that it came against Clinton coach Sam Temple in his first trip back to Viking Field since leading WC to the state championship last year.

And coaching decisions some good, some not so good loomed large in the outcome.

“The chess game part of it was fun,” said Broome, whose team hosts archrival Vicksburg Friday at 7 p.m. “We played station-to-station baseball and some folks stepped up for us.”

Cleanup hitter Joey Lieberman homered in his first two at-bats to help No. 5 WC (20-4, 6-0 Division 4-5A) recover from an early 3-0 deficit.

But the Vikings, who had five homers in a 13-6 win at Clinton two weeks ago, had to scratch out the rest of their runs this time. That was made more difficult without John Morgan Mims (hamstring) and Carl Upton (stomach virus) in the starting lineup. WC finished with just seven hits, but took advantage of six errors by Clinton, which had 10 hits.

“Tonight, we challenged what I consider to be the best team in the state,” said Temple, whose team beat Vicksburg 3-2 in a nine-inning game last week. “We’re hitting some good pitchers pretty well.”

The Vikings weren’t as fired up about trying to beat Temple as they were about trying to win for Upton. The senior right-hander was so sick all day that he didn’t get his scheduled start, but he came on in relief in the sixth and got the win.

“He was throwing up all day,” Broome said. “It meant a lot to the guys seeing him in there.”

Broome said Upton went to school long enough to be eligible to play.

“That showed a lot of heart,” said Lieberman, who was 2-for-4 with four RBIs. “We had to win it for him.”

Whether that would happen was in doubt most of the way through the game.

Surprise starter Andrew Simmons, who struck out five, walked two and allowed six hits in four innings gave up a two-out walk in the first to open the door for three straight RBI hits a double by T.J. Boler, a single by Chris Duncan and a triple by Lucas Sandroni.

Lieberman’s three-run homer with two outs in the third one pitch after Clinton catcher Tim O’Hara dropped a foul popup and set up by two Clinton errors gave WC its first lead, 4-3.

But the Arrows (18-5, 3-3) took a 5-4 lead in the fourth on Clay Keith’s RBI double and Joel Hurt’s run-scoring groundout. Clinton then went up 6-4 in the fifth on an RBI single by Duncan, a Warren County native who was 3-for-5 with three RBIs.

WC came back in the bottom of the fifth.

Brian Pettway, who pitched the fifth, ripped an RBI double down the left-field line to chase starter Chase Dorsey. Pettway scored the tying run when his brother, John Rice Pettway, was hit by a pitch from Josh Jordan with two outs. That came after Upton, who was pinch-hitting, was intentionally walked to load the bases and after Mims, pinch-hitting for Tom Corbin, hobbled up the line to reach base on a fielder’s choice. No double-play attempt was made.

Brian Pettway, who bats third, was intentionally walked in his last two plate appearances. That move worked out for Temple.

“What do you do?” Temple said of his decision to walk Pettway. “They’re both great ballplayers.”

Pettway hit two of his 11 homers against Clinton on March 19.

“It breaks my heart to walk Brian in that situation,” Temple said. “I know he wants to come through, but, as a coach, you can’t be stupid.

“I told Joey I loved him, but to please keep this one in the park,” Temple said of Lieberman’s sixth-inning at-bat with the score tied 6-6 and runners at first and second.

Lieberman admitted he was pressing a little harder than usual after Pettway was walked, then he heard his former coach’s playful plea.

“I laughed,” he said, “then I popped out.”

He almost made Temple pay for the same decision in the eighth. He ripped Mike Cashion’s 0-2 pitch just inches foul up the left-field line before striking out to end the inning.

Duncan’s two-out RBI single after Broome elected to walk Boler put Clinton ahead, 7-6, in the top of the ninth.

That left it up to WC’s bottom four batters, who were 1-for-14 until that point. Corbin was hit by a pitch to lead off the ninth, then Ferguson followed with his shot to just in front of the wall in deep left-center. He tried to stretch it into a triple, but he scored the game-winner when O’Hara’s throw to third went to left field.

“It’s awesome because I hadn’t hit the ball well all night,” said Ferguson, who was batting sixth. “I thought I was going to be out at third.”

WC’s defense came up big, turning double plays one on Corbin’s running catch in right field and throw to second in the seventh and eighth innings after the leadoff men reached base. Left-fielder Jeff Mitchell’s running catch in left field robbed Hurt in the top of the ninth before a two-out error opened the door for Duncan’s go-ahead hit.

Temple said he wasn’t surprised Ferguson came through.

“He’s a great ballplayer,” he said. “They’ve got a whole lineup of dangerous hitters.”

Chris Hite had two hits for WC, while Daryl Harper had a double.

Temple said it was strange seeing a WC win from the visitor’s dugout at Viking Field.

“I just remembered the hours of blood, sweat and tears working on it with all the parents … Clinton is my girl now, but this is like an old girlfriend here,” he said. “I have a lot of love for those guys and the people here. I was glad for the battle.”

So was Broome.

“We could have thrown in the towel,” Broome said of the bad start in the game and in the season, when WC dropped to 11-4 after a 19-8 loss a little over two weeks ago. “We focused and we believed in ourselves and beat an outstanding team, maybe the best team we’ve played all year.”