Vikings upend Wave, force Game 3 at WC

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 30, 2002

[04/28/02]TUPELO Happy birthday, Joey Lieberman.

The Warren Central senior, celebrating his 18th birthday, had two doubles, a home run and six RBIs as the Vikings (25-9) bombarded Tupelo in Game 2 of the best-of-three series, 12-2, in a five-inning, mercy-rule shortened game at Golden Wave Field. The deciding game is scheduled for Monday at Viking Field at 5:30 p.m.

“This is the best present. Ever,” said Lieberman, who led WC’s 15-hit attack against five Golden Wave pitchers. “This could have been my last game and I didn’t want to go out that way.”

Lieberman made Tupelo (26-11) coach Larry Harmon pay for his respect for slugger Brian Pettway. Pettway walked twice once intentionally and each time was driven in by a Lieberman shot.

“All we were trying to do was set up a double play,” Harmon said. “He made us pay. He’s a good hitter too, but as a coach, you try to set up the ground ball. You’re not trying to slight anybody.”

Lieberman said he didn’t think it was a slight against him, only due respect for the Ole Miss signee, who’s hitting over .500 with 16 home runs.

“I’d walk him,” Lieberman said. “Brian’s the best hitter in the state. I could look at it as disrespect, but if I were a coach, I would do it in a heartbeat every time he gets up.”

Lieberman’s offensive outburst was statistically the most impressive, but the Vikings power-stocked lineup responded all the way through. Eight of the nine batters got hits and WC had at least two hits in every inning.

“Every game is different and some days you hit them where they are and some days you hit them where they aren’t,” Harmon said. “Today, everything they hit was hard and it was where we weren’t. They came out focused and played great. … Nothing they hit today was cheap.”

Tom Corbin had a pair of singles, a double and three RBIs, while Carl Upton had two doubles and an RBI, Chris Hite had a single, double and scored two runs and Pettway scored three runs. Jeremy Ferguson had an RBI single and winning pitcher Andrew Simmons (7-0) added a pair of hits and two RBIs.

“We hit like we were supposed to,” Corbin said. “He threw a lot of curveballs, but we stayed back and we hit the ball real well today.”

Warren Central, held to one run on four hits in the opening loss Friday night, belted six doubles three in the top of the first to take a 3-0 lead. Hite hit the first pitch of the game into the left-field corner and scored on Lieberman’s first two-RBI double. Lieberman scored one batter later on Upton’s shot off the center-field fence for a 3-0 lead.

“I went 0-for-4 last night, so I had to do something today,” Hite said. “That’s what the leadoff guy’s supposed to do.”

Tupelo scored a pair of runs in the second both unearned but could not get to Simmons the rest of the way. Jonathan Hancock and Kline had back-to-back RBI singles after a botched ground ball on what would have been the third out gave Tupelo life.

Simmons, who is battling arm problems but got a clean bill of health from his doctor, gave up only three hits after that and allowed only one Tupelo player to reach third.

“Andrew is not going to wow anybody, but he’s 7-0,” WC coach Randy Broome said. “He’s a bulldog, a battler and a competitor, just like everyone else.”

The most impressive statistic for Simmons was keeping his pitch count under 60. Broome said because of that and using Upton and Pettway sparingly on Friday, all three could throw on Monday.

“Everyone on our staff has to be ready,” Broome said. “… It’s do-or-die. Hopefully, we’ll throw those guys out there and they’ll get the job done.”

After the Wave cut the lead to 3-2, Lieberman hit his second two-RBI double in the top of the second for a 5-2 lead. The Vikings scored one in the third on a Simmons’ RBI and added four in the fourth. Lieberman’s two-run bomb over the scoreboard in left field and RBI singles by Corbin and Jeremy Ferguson gave WC a 10-2 lead.

Corbin gave WC the decisive 10-run lead in the fifth with a two-run double with two outs.

Harmon was forced to use five pitchers, but none threw more than two innings. Kline gave up five runs in two innings to take the loss.

“Once they got up six, seven runs, we tried to get some guys some experience,” Harmon said. “We might have to use them on Monday. It’s do-or-die for both teams and we’ll use whoever we have to.”

Tupelo got runners on first and second in the fifth, but Simmons got Hancock to pop out to second and end the game.

The win lifted the Vikings, who did not lose a game in last year’s state-championship run, to 2-0 in must-win playoff games. They beat Northwest Rankin in the deciding third game of their first-round series.

“I’m anxious to see Monday,” Broome said. “It’s like I told them, if they expect Tupelo to come in here without a fight, they got something else coming.

“Let’s take the fight to them.”