Gators complete season sweep of WC

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 4, 2003

Vicksburg High’s Ben Shelton, right, slaps the ground after scoring the game-winning run on a James Jackson single Thursday night. Coming to congratulate Shelton are Drew Smith, center, and Justin Henry. The Gators beat Warren Central 7-6 to claim the three-game series sweep this season. (C. Todd ShermanThe Vicksburg Post)

[4/4/03]Before Thursday night’s Mayor’s Trophy game against Warren Central, no Vicksburg player had ever touched the trophy.

But as Warren Central’s five-year stranglehold on the division championship came to an end earlier this week, so did their hold on the trophy.

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James Jackson’s single in the bottom of the seventh scored pinch-runner Ben Shelton from second base as the Gators erased a pair of 3-run deficits to claim a 7-6 win and a three-game series sweep of the rival Vikings.

“I didn’t even know we had a trophy for a while,” Vicksburg coach Jamie Creel said. “This is the first time I have ever seen it other than when I visit (WC coach) Randy (Broome’s) office.”

Now the Gators have their sites on an even bigger prize: a home playoff game.

Vicksburg (13-6, 6-1 Division 6-5A) and Clinton will square off in Clinton on Tuesday with the division championship on the line.

“We need to go over there and play our hearts out,” said VHS first baseman Paul Gorney, whose leadoff walk started the final Gators’ flurry in the seventh inning. “Then whatever happens, happens.”

Gorney drew a four-pitch walk from Andrew Simmons, the third WC pitcher of the night. He was replaced by the fleet-footed Shelton, who stole on Simmons’ first pitch to Jackson.

Creel then told Jackson to bunt, but he missed the next offering to put the count at 0-2. On the next pitch, Jackson laced a single to left field and Shelton easily beat the throw home.

“All year long we have come back,” Vicksburg third baseman Matt Middleton said. “Tonight was no different. We got the intensity up and wouldn’t stop fighting.”

The comeback came after the error-prone Vikings blew a pair of three-run leads, mostly on account of six errors over the final four innings.

After being staked to a 3-0 lead heading into the fourth inning, WC committed a pair of fourth-inning errors that opened the door to three VHS runs to tie the game.

The Vikings, playing for pride and a shot at a .500 record, battled back in the fifth off a tiring Jackson. He walked two and hit a batter to allow one run to score with the bases loaded.

Justin Henry replaced Jackson, and gave up a two-RBI double to Tom Corbin to up WC’s lead to 6-3.

Then Henry, who got the win, shut the door retiring seven of the final eight batters he faced. Simmons took the loss.

“Jackson’s a good pitcher, but we did a good job against him,” Broome said. “Any time you throw Jackson with Henry behind him, it’s going to be tough.”

Vicksburg pulled to within one run in the fifth on singles by Gorney and Steven Price.

With Shelton, running for Gorney, on third, Price purposely got hung up between first and second. Zach Balthrop’s throw to second to get Price sailed into center field to allow Shelton to score. Another error on a cutoff throw allowed Price to score from first and pull VHS to within one run.

Middleton singled in the sixth and scored on the sixth WC error of the night to tie the game, 6-6.

“Against any good team, you have to make the plays,” Broome said. “… It’s been like this all year long.”