WC is Coast-bound for playoff opener

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 21, 2004

[4/21/04]Being shipped to the south half of the state is a double-edged sword for Warren Central.

In one respect, the Vikings avoid playing the top teams in the north which are the top teams in the state.

The Nos. 3, 5, 6, 9, 12, 15 and 16 teams in the only prep baseball poll in the state are Class 5A schools from the north.

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In the South, though, the Vikings know very little about their opponents, making scouting and preparations slightly more difficult for coaches.

“A lot of that has to do with our familiarity with the north,” said Warren Central coach Randy Broome, who will lead his team against Division 7-5A champion Ocean Springs (15-12) on Thursday at 7 p.m. “We also play a lot of those teams in the regular season.

“Plus I think that the Southaven and Gulf Coast area are way away. You just don’t hear a lot of anything going on there.”

Broome, assistant coach Jeff Wood and both Vicksburg High coaches took a scouting trip Friday to see St. Martin play Ocean Springs. The Gators will also open their playoffs on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Bazinsky Field.

Broome called the Greyhounds, “a solid high school team.”

The Vikings will return home on Saturday in the second game of the best-of-three series at 2 p.m. If the series is tied after that, the two would meet again on Monday on the Gulf Coast.

“I feel like we have a pretty good chance to make some noise in the playoffs,” said WC pitcher Mark Different, who will get the start Thursday. “We didn’t win district like we wanted to, but it turns out that we got a better draw, or at least as good of one, as anyone.”

Different is 7-2 with a 2.41 ERA in 49 1/3 innings pitched as the Vikings recorded a 19-9 regular-season record. Different is also the team’s leading hitter at .478 with four doubles, three home runs and 32 RBIs.

Leadoff batter Nick Carson is hitting .426 and Josh Gordon is hitting .323.

The Vikings spent Monday healing minor bumps and bruises, and also watching several baseball and football highlight tapes.

“We know that (Ocean Springs) is going to be hungry,” said Broome of the Greyhounds, who have won 12 of their last 15 games. “We want to get our hunger and the fire we had in the beginning of the season.

The Vikings are coming off a win over Madison Central in the second game of a Saturday doubleheader.

“After the first one, a lot of people started wondering if we should be in the playoffs,” said Different of his team’s 8-2 loss in the first game Saturday. “We came back in that second game and beat them. That gave us confidence.”

WC will leave early Thursday and stop in Hattiesburg for lunch. The team had planned to hit at Southern Miss’ Pete Taylor Park, but an Eagles’ practice thwarted that plan.

Instead, the Vikings will watch a little USM practice and take a tour of the facilities.