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Marlins’ draft pick holds off WC Seniors

Warren Central’s Zach Balthrop chases Jabari Crockett back to first base during a fifth-inning rundown. The Jackson All-Stars, a select team of capital city standouts, beat the Warren Central Seniors, 8-5. (Chad Applebaum The Vicksburg Post)

The sun finally shone on Viking Field long enough to play some baseball Monday evening, but the June gloom for the Warren Central Seniors continued.

Derrick Johnson and Brandon Walker each went 2-for-5 with a home run and two RBIs, and Florida Marlins’ draft pick Todd Johnson struck out eight in five innings of work as the Jackson All-Stars beat WC 9-5.

The Vikings, who lost their fourth straight, left the bases loaded in each of the last two innings and stranded 12 runners in all. Jake Turner hit a three-run home run for WC, and Ryan Grey went 2-for-5 with a pair of singles and a run scored.

“We came out early and hit the ball good the first, second, and third innings, and we just put it in cruise control. We blew it,” said WC third baseman Zach Balthrop, who was 1-for-2 with a single against Jackson. “(WC) Coach (Randy) Broome always talks about when you get a lead don’t stick on it, keep building put a team away, and that’s one thing we haven’t been doing this summer.

“We just need to try to do that a little bit more and we’ll start winning more games. We get a lead on every team we play early, and blow it.”

Early on, it looked as if WC’s fortunes had turned. Otis Stamps led off the bottom of the first with a single and went to third when Grey delivered a one-out base hit. Turner followed with a homer over the left field fence to put WC ahead 3-0.

Jackson got on the board in the second on Walker’s two-run homer, and a change in tactics changed the course of the game.

After Vaughn Mims doubled to lead off the bottom of the third, Jackson coach Janerro January decided the Vikings had seen enough off-speed pitches from Johnson. He started calling for a steady diet of fastballs from the former Provine star, and the Vikings struggled to adjust.

Johnson didn’t allow another hit before leaving the game after the fifth inning. He retired nine of the 10 batters he faced after Mims’ double, striking out five of them.

“We picked up that they were kind of late and weren’t getting the bat around, so what we did was go with fastballs and see if they’re going to try and hit it,” January said.

Jackson, meanwhile, surged ahead with a mix of power and finesse. Ira Hicks tied the game in the fourth with an RBI double, and Todd Johnson blooped a single to center that fell in between three WC fielders. Doyle Harrington drove in another run with a fielder’s choice to put Jackson ahead 5-3 before the Vikings got out of the inning.

“Allen (Carlisle) looked at Otis (Stamps), and Otis looked at Allen, and they were right there and the ball landed in that triangle out there,” WC coach Kevin Coker said of Johnson’s blooper. “It kept the inning alive.”

Jackson added a run in the fifth on Jabari Crockett’s RBI single and two more in the seventh on Derrick Johnson’s home run to make it 8-3 before WC began its comeback.

Jackson pitcher Calvin Triplett hit a batter and walked five in 1 2/3 innings including two with the bases loaded as WC cut it to 8-5 in the eighth. Walker relieved Triplett and got Brian Carroll to fly out to end the inning, but got into trouble in the ninth.

After Jackson tacked on an unearned insurance run in the top of the ninth, WC loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the inning. Walker struck out Derrick Beard for the second out, though, and got Carlisle to fly out to the warning track in center to end the game.

“We’re right there to win that game. One or two hits and we can win that game, after not playing our best ball the whole game long,” Coker said. “I always judge the way the game went by whether or not we have a chance to win at the end, and every game we’ve played this summer we’ve had a chance to win at the end.

“By the end of this summer we’ve just got to find a way to win that game.”