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WC, Hattiesburg set for playoff showdown

[10/12/2004] Things are coming together nicely for Warren Central at just the right time.

After a midseason hitting slump, the Lady Vikes have worked on their batting for the last two weeks in preparation for today’s Class 5A playoff opener against Hattiesburg, which begins at 3 p.m. If the Lady Tigers take one of the two games in the doubleheader, the best-of-three series will shift to Hattiesburg on Saturday.

“We’re excited that we are at home,” WC coach Lucy Young said. “It’s exciting, too, to not be playing on the Gulf Coast in the first round. In the past we’ve had to go straight into the competition with Biloxi or Moss Point.”

The Lady Vikes scored only 29 runs during a seven-game stretch (4.1 per game) in September, and Young began to worry that their bats would remain frozen heading into the playoffs. All that turned around in the final three games of the season, in which the Division 6-5A champions broke out with 27 runs, including two 10-run performances.

“We came back and finally got those bats cracking,” Young said. “I knew we had it in us because we’ve done it before. We just kind of hit a little lull there and now we’ve picked it back up.

“This was a good time for this to come, a good confidence-builder, good morale-builder.”

Warren Central (20-7) will look to continue this recent hot streak against Hattiesburg, which finished second to Meridian in Division 5-5A. Meridian swept the season series between the two, 11-2 and 19-2.

Laquitta Smith, who was the head coach at Vicksburg High last season, is an assistant coach for Hattiesburg.

Young swapped scouting reports with Meridian, who will play Natchez in the first round, to get a feel for what the Lady Tigers have.

“The top four or five hitters are the strength of their hitting,” Young said. “They’re just a steady little team, so we’ll just prepare ourselves.”

The Mississippi High School Activities Association realigned the divisions for this season, pitting Division 6 against Division 5 in Class 5A. If the Lady Vikes advance past Hattiesburg, they likely will travel to the Gulf Coast for their second round game against a team from Division 7 or 8.