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VHS makes history with sweep of Jackets

Vicksburg High’s Matt Middleton (2) reaches first base in the second inning on a throwing error as Starkville first baseman Jesse Carver can’t handle the throw. The Gators won 7-3 to advance to play Southaven in the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs. (C. Todd ShermanThe Vicksburg Post)

[4/19/03]The Vicksburg Gators hustled their way Friday night, right into the school record books.

The Gators used a six-run second inning and non-stop hustle to beat Starkville, 7-3, and advance to the second round of the state playoffs for the first time in recent memory.

“It’s been a very long time,” said Vicksburg High coach Jamie Creel, who couldn’t remember the Gators ever winning a playoff series. “I’m so happy for these kids and the senior leadership they have shown..

“I told our kids before this series that it was very important to come out, win a series and build a foundation for this program.”

With the foundation built, Vicksburg will set its sights on Southaven, a two-game series winner over Madison Central. The game will be on Friday, but Creel did not know where or what time.

“We’ll have to get a lot of scouting reports,” Creel said about a Southaven team the Gators have not faced this year. “…We’re just happy to be where we are.”

The Gators (19-7), who beat Starkville 23-3 in the opener Thursday night, used another big inning Friday to keep the Jackets (20-10) down.

Behind three errors and a hustling triple-turned-home run by Justin Henry, the Gators jumped on Starkville 6-1.

James Jackson started the inning by reaching on an error and Justin Boler followed with a single. After a balk, Steven Price doubled home Jackson to tie the game at 1-1.

Boler scored on a sacrifice fly by Ben Shelton and Price came around from second base to score when Matt Middleton reached on an error for a 3-1 Gators’ lead. Josh McBride then reached on an error, and both scored on Henry’s triple.

After sliding into third, the relay throw got away allowing Henry to scurry home for a 6-1 lead.

That’s all Vicksburg needed.

Jackson allowed three runs on three hits with seven strikeouts in five innings of work to get the win. Henry pitched the final two innings. He threw 23 pitches, 19 for strikes.

“I just wanted to come in and throw strikes,” Henry said. “I had the curveball working for me. They were facing lefties all series, so it had to be a little different for them.”

Starkville scored single runs in the third and fifth innings both off Jackson and both unearned to pull to 6-3.

In the bottom of the fifth, with Jackson tiring, Starkville scored once and had runners on first and second with no outs.

Dustin Rhodes tried to move to third on a passed ball, but catcher Casey Trest gunned him at third, and Jackson fanned two of the next three batters to end the threat.

“In both games, the hustle on our side was very evident,” Creel said. “I think we outhustled them tremendously.”

The Gators added a run in the sixth on a Henry RBI single for the 7-3 lead.

“Five errors killed us,” Starkville coach Danny Carlisle said. “You can look at it like if we don’t commit five errors, we win the game 3-1. I thought our kids battled hard after just an awful game last night.”

This is the second straight time a VHS team has beaten Starkville in a major state tournament.

The Gators’ basketball team beat the Jackets in overtime for the Class 5A state basketball championship in March. On that day, the Gators’ baseball team lost to Clinton, then bussed over to the Mississippi Coliseum to watch the basketball win.