Surprising Vikings earned respect

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 17, 2004

Warren Central’s Ryan Grey (27) celebrates with teammate John Rice Pettway after scoring a run in the South State championship series against Oak Grove last Saturday. (Jon GiffinThe Vicksburg Post)

[5/15/04]It started with a viewing of the movie “Miracle” and ended just short of a finish equal to the movie title.

Warren Central’s amazing run through the Class 5A state playoffs ended on a soggy Viking Field Thursday night in a 6-0 decision to defending state champion Oak Grove.

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WC (24-12) finished one win away from advancing to the school’s second state championship series.

“They really are a great team,” said Oak Grove pitcher Wayne Smith, who handcuffed the Vikings for seven sterling innings on Thursday. “They hit the ball and have a lot of fight.”

Even when the game and the season were wrapped up in Oak Grove gold, the overachieving Vikings never quit.

Down 6-0 in the seventh inning, Warren Central put two runners on base with two outs, trying desperately to conjure up the magic that brought the team that far.

When senior Allen Carlisle’s fly ball to right field was snagged in foul territory by Drew Ezell, the season had ended.

Oak Grove will battle Northwest Rankin, a team that the Warriors beat for last year’s title, for the state championship starting today.

Warren Central will take a few days off, then start working on the summer.

“We’ll take a few days to recuperate and turn our stuff in,” said junior Zach Balthrop, who carried a one-hitter into the fifth inning before allowing three runs, one earned, in the fifth. “Then we’ll start looking at summer baseball.”

The Vikings will lose four senior starters catcher John Rice Pettway, pitcher/shortstop Mark Different, right fielder Jake Turner and second baseman Allen Carlisle to graduation. Vaughn Mims, Kyle Gordon and Brian Carroll will also graduate.

“From the seniors down, they gave it all they had all year long,” WC coach Randy Broome said. “This team had a great attitude, and that is something that is going to have to carry over.”

Balthrop will lead a crop of underclassmen in a quest for a title next season. Centerfielder Nick Carson, a second-team All-State Class 5A selection, hit .419 with 11 doubles and three triples.

“This was a great year for the underclassmen, and the seniors,” Balthrop said. “We have a chance to do it again next year.”

Warren Central opened the season with a win over Oak Grove and Hattiesburg and was10-2 at Spring Break.

Despite a pair of division losses to Vicksburg High that cost WC the 3-5A title, the Vikings opened the playoffs with two wins over Ocean Springs.

The team followed by beating 2004 South State runnerup Picayune in a thrilling three-game series to reach South State.

After beating Oak Grove in the opener, the Vikings were outscored 15-1 the next two games in bowing out of the playoffs.

“This team had more heart than any I have ever been a part of,” Balthrop said. “We were so close as a team. It was amazing.”