Gators top WC, keep playoff hopes alive

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 8, 2002

[04/06/02]Vicksburg High got new life against Warren Central when John Morgan Mims’ deep fly over the right-field fence was ruled foul.

The Gators’ season got new life when WC committed three errors in the eighth and VHS went on to win, 5-4, Friday night.

“I want to go to the playoffs bad,” said VHS’ John Rohrer, who was 3-for-4 and scored the go-ahead run. “We had to give it everything we had. I knew we could do it. I had a feeling we were going to win.”

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Catcher Ryan Grey drove in the go-ahead run on an error at short and pinch-runner Ben Shelton added an insurance run on a wild pitch as the Gators (12-14, 3-4 Division 4-5A) kept their playoff hopes alive.

“This is a really big win for our program,” said VHS coach Jamie Creel, who had lost four in a row to WC. “They’ve got a great club.”

WC’s Tom Corbin led off the eighth with a home run to deep left-center, but winning pitcher Chris Middleton (7-2) struck out the next two, then coaxed a foulout to Grey for the final out to set off a wild celebration by the Gators.

Creel said the celebration was premature. VHS still has to beat Clinton and Forest Hill and hope for a WC win over Clinton to earn the second playoff spot.

The victory should give VHS confidence to close out its division schedule with the victories it needs, said Middleton, who went the distance. He struck out four, had two intentional walks and allowed seven hits.

“Hopefully we’ll keep winning,” said Middleton, who added WC to his resume of ranked victims, which includes Oak Grove, West Lauderdale, Petal, Forest Hill and West Monroe. “We stayed in the game and didn’t get down.”

He survived a three-run homer by counterpart Carl Upton (5-3), who relieved starter Jeremy Ferguson in the fifth, when it was 3-3.

The Gators put pressure on WC with their trademark aggressive baserunning. The Vikings, meanwhile, left 11 on base five in scoring position and had eight errors.

“We knew sooner or later, that was going to come back and bite us,” WC coach Randy Broome said of the stranded runners.

The Gators, who survived four errors, had just six hits but made the most of their opportunities.

“It was a game of mistakes,” Creel said. “We put a little pressure on them.”

But it may have been a lack of pressure that hurt WC, Broome agreed. The fifth-ranked Vikings (20-5, 6-1) sealed their fifth straight division championship to earn home-field advantage in the opening round of the playoffs with an 8-7, nine-inning win over Clinton on Tuesday.

“That’s not an excuse,” Broome said. “When you play against the guys you grew up playing against, you always want to win.”

Mims almost gave Senior Night a storybook ending, with a ball that barely missed being a walk-off home run to lead off the bottom of the seventh.

“When he hit it, I thought, that’s it,’ ” Middleton said.

Creel said he wasn’t worried when the ball jumped off Mims’ bat.

“John Morgan’s a great player … but I knew it was foul,” he said.

“It was close,” Broome said. “It would have been nice if it would have been (a homer).”

After it was ruled foul, Mims singled and, with one out, Joey Lieberman was intentionally walked for the second time on the night. Upton then hit into an inning-ending double play.

VHS shortstop Justin Henry went deep in the hole on a grounder by Chris Hite to start an inning-ending double play in the seventh, then did the same to Upton in the eighth.

The Vikings, meanwhile, fell apart in the field in the eighth.

Two times, VHS runners advanced when throws on steal attempts went to center field once on a bad throw, the other when no one covered the bag.

“I don’t know if we weren’t ready, but we didn’t make the plays,” Broome said.

The game’s start gave an indication of how things would go for WC.

Henry led off by reaching base on an error, stole second and third, then scored on Rohrer’s blooper to right.

Upton got the lead back for WC in the third with a three-run blast to left after Brian Pettway doubled and Lieberman reached on an error.

The Gators came back when Paul Gorney homered on the first pitch of the fifth, then Henry’s RBI groundout made it 3-3.

“The biggest thing was the guts and determination by my pitcher,” Creel said of Middleton. “He laid it on the line again.”

PCA 17, River Oaks 4

Andrew Embry and T.J. Smith each came within a triple of hitting for the cycle on Friday in Porters Chapel’s romp of Riverfield.

The Eagles (14-4, 4-0 Conference 7-A) ended the game after five innings because of the mercy rule.

Embry had four RBIs, while Smith had three. Chase Towne had a pair of hits, Ryan Hoben had a double, Wes Massey blasted an RBI single, Gerald Mims had an RBI double and Josh Rush had an RBI single for PCA.

Hoben pitched five innings, allowing three hits and striking out six.