Vikings ready to do battle vs. Tupelo

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 29, 2002

WARREN CENTRAL PLAYERS celebrate after beating Northwest Rankin in Game 3 of the first round of the playoffs. The Vikings, who were undefeated in the playoffs last year, hope to celebrate another Game 3 win tonight at Viking Field. The winner plays Southaven or Madison Central for the North State title.(The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[04/29/02]Home-field advantage has been anything but in the Class 5A playoff series.

After losing at home on Friday night to Tupelo (26-10), defending Class 5A champion Warren Central crushed the Wave on their home field Saturday, 12-2, to even the best-of-three series at one game apiece. Today’s deciding third game is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at Viking Field.

The winner will face either Madison Central or Southaven in the North State finals. Those two will play the deciding third game of their series today at Madison.

“This will be the last game for one of us,” WC junior Tom Corbin said. “It’s going to be a fight.”

The Friday night loss isn’t sticking with WC coach Randy Broome. He knows one thing: his Vikings (25-9) are spared another marathon bus trip.

“It’s never fun,” Tupelo coach Larry Harmon said of the nearly four-hour bus ride. “We plan to leave early, get down there about 3 o’clock and hopefully we’ll give them a good ballgame.”

Harmon saw two different Warren Central teams in less than 24 hours. The WC squad Friday never figured out Tupelo ace Sparky Woods. The Vikings scored one run on seven hits in a 6-1 loss.

“We embarrassed them down there and they only scored one run, so I am sure they were ticked off and scored 12 today,” Harmon said after Saturday’s game. “We’ll have to score runs (tonight), it doesn’t matter who pitches.”

Harmon wouldn’t say who will get the nod today. He used five pitchers on Saturday, but none threw more than two innings. Will Kline, a hard-throwing right-hander, came into Saturday’s game undefeated at home before being tagged for 15 hits six of them doubles.

“Pitching isn’t going to win the ballgame,” Harmon said. “It’s the team that comes out and hits the baseball.”

Broome said this morning that senior Carl Upton (8-5) will get the start, but Brian Pettway and Saturday’s winning pitcher Andrew Simmons are both ready if needed.

The Vikings did not lose a playoff game en route to last year’s state championship, but the senior-laden club is used to playing in pressure-packed games. Then again, so is Tupelo, which won 3-2 then lost 11-1 before coming back to beat Olive Branch 2-1 in the opening-round series.

WC took three games to beat Northwest Rankin in the first round.

“We’re confident,” Lieberman said. “With one loss, you know every game could be your last. We’re best when our backs are against the wall.”