Oak Grove bullies WC, ties series

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 11, 2004

[5/11/40]OAK GROVE Monday’s Class 5A South State playoff game began just as Saturday’s did. Only this time Oak Grove never stopped hitting, and Warren Central never started.

The Warriors battered two Viking (24-11) pitchers for nine runs on 14 hits, and Oak Grove (27-6) pitcher Ryan Norton threw a complete-game five-hitter in a 9-1 thumping in the second game of the best-of-three series. The deciding third game is scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Viking Field.

“We knew what we had to do and we only had one thing on our minds,” said Norton, who carried a shutout into the seventh inning before Zach Balthrop homered for the only WC run. “We knew we weren’t going to leave this ballpark without a victory tonight. We came out and played as a team and got the win.”

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As they did in the first game, the Warriors took an early 5-0 lead. Norton’s two-run blast highlighted a five-run second inning.

Hendrick Leverette homered in the bottom of the third for a 6-0 lead, and it also ended the night of Warren Central pitcher Mark Different.

The senior fell to 10-4 after allowing nine hits in just over two innings of work.

“Our guys will throw strikes, and we will challenge hitters by throwing strikes,” Warren Central coach Randy Broome said. “They are either going to hit it in spots where we can make plays or they’re not. They did a good job of stringing some hits together.”

In the opener Saturday, Oak Grove jumped out to a 5-0 lead as well, but the Vikings used a six-run third inning to take a lead they never relinquished.

The scoring chances Monday were few.

WC had runners on second and third in the top of the first inning with only one out, but Norton struck out designated hitter Ben Koestler and coaxed a groundout by John Rice Pettway.

Balthrop led off the second with a single, moved to second on a fielder’s choice and reached third on a passed ball all with one out but again the Vikings’ bats failed to capitalize.

“We had a chance to set the tone early in the first couple innings, but we didn’t do a good job of that,” Broome said. “Him getting out of a couple jams built his confidence.”

Norton started the first game of the season against Warren Central, a 6-5 loss to Different, but he cruised through the middle innings before tiring slightly in the seventh.

Allen Carlisle, who led WC with a single and a double, got the only hit between the third and sixth innings a leadoff double in the sixth but again WC failed to capitalize.

“After we got the five runs, we went back in the field with the mindset that we weren’t going to let up,” Norton said.

Carlisle relieved Different after Leverette’s home run and allowed three runs in the fourth inning, although only one was earned. Zack Huntington reached on a three-base error that scored two for a 9-0 Oak Grove lead.

Carlisle breezed through the final two innings, but the game was well out of reach by then.

Hayes Singleton went 4-for-4 to lead the Warriors, while Kyle Sellers, Norton and Leverette each had two hits.

The Vikings will now turn their sights to Wednesday and a one-game playoff, with a trip to the state championship on the line.

WC will throw Zach Balthrop one of the only pitchers on the Vikings’ squad that Oak Grove has not seen this year. Game 1 loser Wayne Smith is expected to get the nod for the Warriors.

He lasted only three innings in the opener.

“It should be a good game,” Norton said. “We’ll put our ace back on the mound, and we all have our heads on straight. We’re looking forward to a victory.”

The Vikings will practice today in preparation for the 6 p.m. start time Wednesday.

“We have to step it up,” said sophomore centerfielder Nick Carson. “We have to go out and play better. We have to play the way that got us here. We have to bring it all to the field, and leave it all there.”