Calming influence sparks Jackson

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Vicksburg High’s Tyler Wells, left, forces out Warren Central’s Josh Gordon before completing a double play in the second inning of the Gators’ 2-1 victory over the Vikings. (Melanie Duncan ThortisThe Vicksburg Post)

[4/7/04]When things were looking bad, all James Jackson needed was a little reassurance from his girlfriend, Charitye Harris. The talk seemed to work wonders.

The only hit Jackson allowed in the game was a towering solo home run by WC’s John Rice Pettway in the fifth inning as the Vikings staked a 1-0 lead.

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Jackson managed to get out of the inning with a pair of strikeouts but was still upset. When he went to the bench, he needed someone to calm him down.

“You wouldn’t believe,” Jackson said. “I went over and had a talk with my girlfriend. She came and she talked to me, and then I wasn’t mad anymore. I got back in the game, ready to play.”

After the chat, he never allowed another baserunner and struck out the next six batters he faced.

Jackson finished with 15 strikeouts in eight innings and Vicksburg came from behind to edge by Warren Central 2-1 in nine innings for the Division 6-5A title.

“What an exciting game,” said VHS coach Jamie Creel, who won his first division championship since coming to the program five years ago. “When you play one-run games like that and everything comes down to one pitch, one play at any given time, to see kids step up and do the right things in certain situations feels real good.”

The victory gives the Gators (15-7, 6-0) home-field advantage in the playoffs. The Vikings (17-6, 4-2) already secured a spot in the playoffs, but will now have to travel a second time if the first-round playoff series reaches three games.

“We could still muster a good season,” WC coach Randy Broome said. “We could still get in there, make some noise and possibly make a run for the state championship. That part of it ain’t over with for us.”

Jackson seamlessly mixed his powerful fastball with a sharp curveball to keep Warren Central’s hitters baffled all game. Outside of the home run, he allowed only five baserunners three on walks, one on a hit batsmen and one on a fielder’s choice.

“He’s a good pitcher,” WC pitcher Mark Different said. “When he’s able to throw his curveball for a strike like that, he’s tough to hit. He was on tonight and pitched a great game. He deserved to win.”

Jackson’s performance overshadowed a brilliant effort by Different. He allowed five hits with 12 strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings, but a pair of costly errors led to the two Vicksburg runs.

“It kills me,” Different said of losing the game. “That’s, what, five times in a row that they’ve beaten us. That’s probably the best game I’ve thrown all year. To lose to our rivals like that just kills you.”

Different had things under control until Jackson led off the seventh inning with a double down the right-field line.

Jackson scored to tie the game when Sean McGowan grounded to shortstop with one out, and WC’s Josh Gordon skipped the ball past first base to the fence.

With the score tied at 1 in the top of the ninth, Jackson again got things started for the Gators, this time with a leadoff walk. McGowan followed with a single that advanced Jackson’s pinch-runner, Ben Shelton, to third base, and McGowan moved to second on the throw.

Broome replaced Different with Drew Warnock and shifted his infield around. Warnock intentionally walked pinch-hitter Fred Denton to load the bases.

Pinch-hitter Stanley Bufkin chopped the ball down the third-base line. Gordon, who moved from shortstop to third base, fielded the ball and threw home. The throw pulled Pettway off the plate, and Shelton scored the go-ahead run.

“We drew the play up like we wanted it,” Broome said. “I don’t know if he rushed it or what. If it was a good throw, yeah, there’s no doubt. I still think John Rice was on the plate, but that’s just the way it goes.”

John Hendrix entered in the bottom of the ninth for Vicksburg. He gave up a leadoff walk to Allen Carlisle, but retired the next three hitters for the save.