Play(off) ball!

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 18, 2002

[04/18/02]Randy Broome’s calculator was working overtime on Monday.

It takes eight games to win the state championship, he said. His team is coming off a season-ending win against defending 4A champion Pearl.

Before that, though, the Vikings (22-7) had lost three of four.

“The last time we were in a funk like that was midway through the season, and we reeled off nine in a row,” Broome said. “If Pearl was No. 1, then maybe it was the start of nine. We win eight more, we’re state champions again.”

Warren Central will starts its defense of the Class 5A title tonight at 7 against Northwest Rankin. Game 2 will be Friday night at Northwest at 7. A deciding third game will be played Saturday if necessary.

The Vikings’ draw will seemingly play into their favor in that the No. 2, 7 and 9 teams in the state are in the top half of the bracket. The only ranked team in WC’s half is Tupelo at No. 12, a potential second-round matchup.

“We have to come with our A’ game, or they’ll hand it to us,” WC second baseman Joey Lieberman said. “After Saturday’s win, we have confidence and know we can beat good teams. Now, we just have to play our game and try to repeat this thing.”

Keeping last year out of the equation is a difficult task. The Vikings ended the regular season on a two-game losing streak before ripping through the best in Class 5A in eight straight games for the school’s first state championship.

In that run, only Taylor Tankersley and Carl Upton saw action on the mound. Broome expects that to be much different this time.

Upton, the team’s top starter, is 7-4 with a 1.68 ERA in 57-2/3 innings. Andrew Simmons is 5-0 with a 2.73 ERA in 43-2/3 innings. Broome also will look to Brian Pettway, who has been limited in innings pitched because of nagging tendinitis. When he is throwing, though, the Ole Miss signee has been almost unhittable.

He’s 4-0 in 27 innings with a save. He sports a stingy 0.52 ERA, has struck out 32 and walked just eight.

“Every game this year, our pitchers have given us a chance to win the baseball game,” Broome said. “They give us a ground ball, we have to make the play. We do those things and we have a chance to win.”

Pettway also leads the team in hitting at .494 with 13 home runs, 10 doubles, 27 RBIs and 42 runs scored. He has a gaudy 1.080 slugging percentage, which is total bases divided by at-bats.

Upton is hitting .367 and John Morgan Mims is at .355. Lieberman is fourth on the team with a .333 average.

In their lone matchup this season, WC beat the Cougars 8-4 on a cold, rainy midseason game.

Broome said he doesn’t think the recent funk WC has been in will be a factor in the run through the playoffs.

“I think you’ll see a little different team than you have the past couple games because it’s the third season,” Broome said. “It’s the postseason, it’s what you play for, and I think our guys will be ready to go.”