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Vikings sweep Hounds; Gators stay alive

Mark Different crosses home plate and waits to celebrate with teammates after hitting a 3-run home run in the Vikings’ 12-4 win over Ocean Springs. (Jon GiffinThe Vicksburg Post)

[4/25/04]Warren Central’s bullpen shut the door on Ocean Springs and the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs.

Drew Warnock and Josh Gordon combined to pitch 4 2/3 innings of scoreless relief as the Vikings came back to defeat Ocean Springs, 12-4, on Saturday afternoon. The loss eliminated Ocean Springs in two games of the best-of-three series.

The victory moves WC into the second round of the playoffs, where they will face Picayune on Friday night at Viking Field.

“I’m proud of all 26 of them. From the seniors on down, they all have great attitudes,” said WC coach Randy Broome who watched his team dig itself into a 4-0 deficit before steadily coming back. “We’ve jelled and meshed together, and that is why we are where we are right now.”

Ocean Springs tagged WC starter Zach Balthrop for four runs in the top of the third inning. The Greyhounds strung together five straight hits highlighted by a Tyler Conn home run to take a 4-0 lead.

Warnock pitched 1 2/3 innings, and Gordon threw the last three innings. Gordon is coming off elbow surgery and has been used sparingly throughout the season. This was his longest outing.

“Coach Broome was going to put me back out there, but coach Wood said to give me one more shot,” Gordon said. “I was tired in that last inning.”

Gordon allowed back-to-back singles in the sixth inning, but neither runner advanced past second.

While the defense was shutting the Greyhounds down, the offense was starting its comeback.

Down 4-0, Otis Stamps opened the bottom of the third with a drag bunt single. He moved to second when Ocean Springs pitcher Eric Creel plunked Allen Carlisle, one of five hit batters by Creel. Both came home on a Mark Different home run to deep left center field that cut the deficit to one run.

“I needed to get a big hit there, and he gave me a belt-high fastball and I jumped all over it,” said Different, who led WC with two hits and four RBIs. “It got out of the park quick, too.”

The Warren Central relievers and defense kept the Greyhounds silent the rest of the way.

“When you make all the plays, good things are going to happen,” said Ocean Springs coach Martin Hardcastle, who watched as his team only recorded two hits after the third inning. “We hit the ball, they made the plays, that’s the game.”

Nick Carson led off the fourth with the first of his two doubles. He moved to third on a groundout and scored when Different got purposely hung up between first and second. The run tied the game at 4.

“It was a designed play, a little steal and stop,” Different said. “I got hung up long enough for the run to score.”

The Vikings took a 5-4 lead on a Balthrop RBI single in the fifth, then torched two Ocean Springs relievers for seven runs in the sixth inning.

Warren Central sent 13 batters to the plate and belted eight hits.

“That pretty much nailed the coffin,” Hardcastle said.

Vaughn Mims hit two singles and had an RBI for WC, while John Rice Pettway hit a two-RBI single, and Balthrop had two hits and three RBIs.

Justin Miller and Keith Guice each doubled and singled to lead Ocean Springs.

“We came into the playoffs hungry and they believe they can make something of this,” Broome said. “Hopefully, this is just a sign of things to come.”

PCA 14, Bowling Green 1

Ryan Hoben went 4-for-4 with three doubles as the Eagles defeated Academy AA Bowling Green in the Eagles final tuneup of the season.

Michael Busby pitched two innings of no-hit relief and had three hits in the win. Michael Shinn added a two-RBI single in the top of the first inning.

The Eagles are scheduled to open their state playoff run on Tuesday at Wilkinson County Christian Academy at 7 p.m. The team will return home on Thursday for Game 2, and 3 if necessary.