Vikings ready to play ball after nine-day layoff
Published 12:00 am Monday, May 3, 2004
[5/3/04]Three days after the scheduled opener, Warren Central will finally take the field again.
The Vikings (21-9), who were scheduled to play Picayune (19-9) on Friday, will open the second-round series tonight at 6 p.m. The Maroon Tide (19-9) are coming off a sweep of Gulfport in the first round, while WC swept Ocean Springs.
“We played a very good series against Gulfport,” longtime Picayune coach Kent Kirkland said. “We are pretty young, but have gotten better as the season has gone along. I think we’re playing the best baseball we have all year.”
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The best-of-three series will shift to Picayune on Tuesday, then return to WC on Thursday if a third game is necessary.
The two teams had to move back their first game because of state testing. One game from the first round had to be played on Friday, backing up the second round by three days.
The delay may have been necessary anyway as heavy rains pelted central and south Mississippi over the weekend. Temperatures are expected to dip into the upper 40s tonight, but no rain is forecast.
Picayune starts four seniors, but a junior will likely take the hill tonight. Heath Stevens pitched the Tide to a 4-1 win in the opening game of the Gulfport series.
Senior Chris Stewart is expected to get the nod in the second game. The Pearl River Community College signee is the Tide’s leadoff hitter and best outfielder as well, Kirkland said.
“We’ve known about the Stevens kid for a while,” Broome said. “He’ll get it up there mid-80s all night long. The report we get is that he likes to throw the breaking ball more than the fastball.”
Warren Central will counter tonight with Mark Different, the most consistent pitcher on the Vikings’ staff. The senior is 9-3 with a 2.24 earned run average.
He was nursing an injured finger on his throwing hand early last week, but is expected to play.
“They seem to have some quality pitching going by who they have beaten this year, and they swing the bats well,” Kirkland said.
Both these schools are in familiar territory. In 2001, the Vikings won the Class 5A state championship. One year later, the Tide captured the Class 4A crown. Both schools earned rankings in the final USA Today national prep baseball poll.
“We know their fans really love their club,” Broome said. “It gets a little rowdy down there. They try to rattle you in left field, but that’s a part of it. Playing in places like that fire you up a little bit.”