• 52°

Turner, Vikings tame Tide, 6-5

Warren Central’s Josh Gordon (18) is mobbed by teammates after hitting his second home run of the game, a third-inning shot, Monday in a 6-5 win over Picayune. The Vikings travel south today for Game 2 of the best-of-three series. (Meredith SpencerThe Vicksburg Post)

[05/04/04] Mr. Automatic did it again for Warren Central.

Jake Turner, the Vikings’ version of New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, slammed the door on Picayune Monday night with a near flawless seventh inning to preserve a 6-5 WC win in Game 1 of the Class 5A state quarterfinals.

The best-of-three series shifts to Picayune tonight at 6 p.m. Game 3 would be Thursday at WC (22-9), if the Tide wins tonight.

“I just like to come out, throw my stuff and hit my spots,” said Turner, a 6-foot, 3-inch senior who also starts in right field. “I had total confidence. I was itching to come in, and he finally let me come in and I had my stuff with me.”

Turner is certainly no stranger to dramatic endings. Eleven days ago against Ocean Springs in the playoff opener, Turner came on with the bases loaded and one out. He responded by striking out the only two batters he faced in a 5-4 victory.

On Monday, he fanned Picayune (19-10) leadoff hitter Chris Stewart and Dustin Thibodeaux, before J. P. Moreaux reached on an error. Turner, though, coaxed a weak fly ball from Heath Stevens to end the game.

“I know Mark (Different) wanted to go out their in that last inning, but after Ocean Springs, I kind of made up my mind,” Warren Central coach Randy Broome said. “It was a tough decision to make.”

Different (10-3) earned the win with six strong innings. He scattered six hits and allowed three earned runs, despite not having pitched in almost two weeks.

Early last week, the senior slammed his thumb on his pitching hand in a car door. The injury kept him from hitting or throwing all week.

“Directly, it didn’t really cause me that many problems. It’s a little swollen and that might have affected the grip a little bit,” Different said. “Indirectly, I think I was a little rusty because of not throwing last week.”

Different was staked to an early lead highlighted by back-to-back second-inning home runs by Vaughn Mims and Josh Gordon for a 2-0 advantage. Nick Carson belted an RBI single and Zach Balthrop scored on an Allen Carlisle flyout to give WC a 4-0 lead after two innings.

Gordon hit his second home run of the night in the bottom of the third for a 5-0 lead.

“I didn’t think the first one was going over. I think the wind carried that one out,” Gordon said. “The second one, he threw it right down the middle.”

Stevens, a junior who was charged with the loss, allowed two singles and one run over the final three innings.

“Heath pitched a good game, but he had a couple pitches there that he let get away from him a little bit,” Picayune coach Kent Kirkland said.

Picayune made a charge of its own in the fourth inning trailing 5-0. Stevens hit an RBI double, which was followed by a Hoyt Hughes RBI single to slice the lead to 5-2.

The Tide added two more runs on a Britton Fortenberry single to right field. The throw home sailed over the catcher, but Different was there for the backup and gunned Fortenberry at second base to end the inning.

WC added another run in the fourth for a 6-4 lead, and Picayune scored once more in the fifth to again trim the lead to one run. The Tide had runners on first and third with two outs, but could not score another run.

Different cruised through the sixth, and Turner capped the victory in the seventh.

“We’ve got some young guys who didn’t quit and played hard,” Picayune coach Kent Kirkland said. “They went up 5-0, and our kids showed a lot of heart coming back on them.”

Hughes led Picayune with two singles and two RBIs, while Thibodeaux and Stevens each doubled.

Carson and Zach Balthrop each had a pair of singles for the Vikings.

“(Picayune’s) a scrappy bunch and they proved that tonight,” Broome said of the Tide. “We have a tough trip down there. It should be a battle.”