Rule of Three’ haunts Vikings one last time

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 14, 2004

WC’s Josh Gordon tries to corral the baseball as Oak Grove’s Blaine English slides into third base. The ball got past Gordon and English scored on the play.(Jon GiffinThe Vicksburg Post)

[5/14/4]The “Rule of Three” haunted Warren Central again.

Whenever the Vikings can limit their fielding mistakes to two or fewer, they usually win. If they commit three or more miscues, however, their chances of winning drop drastically.

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On Thursday, WC had four errors and Oak Grove took advantage to score four unearned runs in a 6-0 shutout at Viking Field in Game 3 of the South State championship series.

“It’s just so hard to swallow, man,” said WC pitcher Zach Balthrop, who took a one-hitter into the fifth inning.

All it took was one at-bat to turn everything around.

Oak Grove sophomore Hendrick Leverette hit a one-out home run to right-center field in the top of the fifth to give Oak Grove (28-7) a 1-0 lead.

“That got us down just a tad bit,” WC catcher John Rice Pettway said. “They got on a roll and got hot. They started scoring all the runs, and we just tried to get out of the inning.”

The Vikings (24-12) didn’t seem rattled at first, until Wayne Smith singled with two outs.

Pinch-runner Blaine English then stole second, and Pettway’s throw from home skipped into shallow center field. English took off for third base while shortstop Mark Different corralled the ball.

Different made an off-balanced throw that bounced over the glove of Josh Gordon at third base and into the Oak Grove dugout to score English.

“We just pressed a little bit, and it started snowballing,” Pettway said. “And they started scoring runs.”

The next batter, Drew Ezell, bounced a grounder to Different, but he bobbled it and Ezell reached base. Grant Hogue followed with an RBI double to right-center to give the Warriors a 3-0 advantage.

“We were in this game. We wanted this game,” said Balthrop, who was replaced by Josh Gordon in the fifth. “I mean, what can you say? I went out there and threw strikes and gave the team a chance to win. We played our hearts out the whole game.”

The Vikings got through the sixth inning with little affair, but Oak Grove jumped on them again in the seventh.

With runners on second and third, Gordon threw a wild pitch. Marshall Greer scored from third base while Pettway tried to make the play in time. But his throw bounced pass Gordon at the plate and down the first-base line, and Hogue scored easily from second to give Oak Grove a 5-0 lead.

“When you’ve got a guy hustling, trying to make a play, sometimes it’s hard to get on them,” said WC coach Randy Broome, adding that two of the four errors were hustle plays. “When your guys are making errors hustling, giving everything they have, that’s the way it is.”