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Fitzgerald leads Heat into semifinals

[08/03/03] A late afternoon thunderstorm cooled the air at Halls Ferry Park, but not the Vicksburg Heat.

Brian Fitzgerald threw a complete-game, three-hit shutout, Kurt Cooksey went 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs, and the Heat turned in several outstanding defensive plays in beating the Greenwood Storm 7-0 Saturday night in the 11-12-year-olds’ age group of the Governor’s Cup.

The win gave the Heat a berth in today’s championship round, which begins at 1 p.m.

“Our goal when we started this tournament was to get to Sunday, and we’re going to play on Sunday now,” Heat coach William “Boozer” Emerson said. “This team has played together and tasted a lot of success over the last two years, and that goes back to them playing as a team.”

On Saturday, though, it was all about Fitzgerald.

The left-hander shut the Storm down for six innings, allowing only two walks and three singles. He also struck out eight, including four straight at one point.

“They weren’t able to hit me, so he left me in there,” Fitzgerald said. “I was able to hit the corners when I needed to, and they weren’t able to get on to my fastball.”

Fitzgerald also had plenty of help from his defense. Shortstop Ryan Ferrington made several outstanding plays, including a leaping grab to rob Greenwood’s Spencer White of an RBI single in the third. He also made a play on a ball in the second inning that deflected off of Fitzgerald’s glove, picking it up and firing to first for the second out of the inning. Fitzgerald struck the next batter out to end the inning with a Greenwood runner on third base.

In the fifth inning, Greenwood’s Daniel Allen sliced a line drive into right field, but Vicksburg’s Travis Thornell fielded it on one bounce and threw a three-hopper to first to get Allen by a half-step.

“They played good defense. It seemed like we couldn’t get out of it,” Greenwood coach Harold Young said. “When you don’t score early, it’s hard to get back in it.”

Ferrington’s leaping grab came after the Heat had finally broken through for two runs in the top of the third and gave the Vicksburg squad a huge lift.

Jared Thames doubled and scored on Cooksey’s single to put the Heat ahead 1-0. Bowen Woodson, who had walked, went to third on Cooksey’s base hit, and scored when White balked on a pickoff throw.

The score stayed 2-0 until the top of the sixth, when the Vicksburg bats suddenly came alive.

Thornell singled with one out, and Jason Pettway followed with a two-run home run to center field to give the Heat a 4-0 cushion.

After Thames flied out to deep center, Adam Lee reached on an error and Woodson singled. That brought up Cooksey, who was asked by Emerson to hit a line drive. Cooksey wanted to hit a home run.

They found a nice compromise when Cooksey lined a home run to left, the ball skidding over the yellow tubing on its way over the fence for a three-run homer and a 7-0 lead.

“When he tries to hit a line drive, he hits a home run, and when he tries to hit a home run, he strikes out,” Emerson said with a smile, explaining his instructions to Cooksey. “Jason’s home run gave us a cushion and Kurt’s home run pretty much sealed it.”

Vicksburg Heat 11, Leland 0

Sean Weaver doubled and scored twice to back Kurt Cooksey, who threw three no-hit innings in a win.

Cooksey allowed no hits and no walks in the first three innings while striking out five. Bowen Woodson and Ryan Ferrington each pitched an inning to finish the one-hitter for the Heat.