Admirals’ comeback torpedoes WC|[5/3/05]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 3, 2005

GULFPORT – Down to their last out and a return trip to Vicksburg hanging in the balance, Gulfport’s Milton Barney delivered in another case of what is becoming routine for the Admirals.

The Admirals’ speedy leadoff hitter hit a triple to deep center field to score Tyler McCabe and Cory Carlson in a thrilling 9-8 victory Monday night.

“I just wanted to get on base,” said Barney, who completed yet another Gulfport comeback this season.

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The victory sends Gulfport (24-9) into the South State finals against Biloxi, while Warren Central’s season ends at 19-13.

“We knew coming in that they were a scrappy team and that they had been coming back all year,” said WC’s Zach Balthrop, who went 4-for-5 and scored two runs, but gave up Barney’s game-winner. “I came out tonight and felt good and tried to battle and battle. I left a curveball up and it got over Nick (Carson’s) head. My hat’s off to them.”

Gulfport, which came back from a 3-1 deficit in the first game Friday night, fell behind again Monday. Warren Central took a 4-0 lead in the third highlighted by RBI singles from Drew Warnock and Will Mendrop and an RBI groundout by Cody Ferguson.

One inning later, however, Gulfport scored six runs on four hits and an error. The outburst chased starting pitcher Parker White and the Vikings’ first reliever Josh Gordon. Balthrop came on and got out of the jam with WC trailing 6-4.

“I don’t know if I have ever had a group that just never gives up,” Gulfport coach Michael Lindsey said. “One guy or another each night steps up.”

Warren Central shot back in the sixth when Balthrop led the inning off with a double, his third hit of the night. Gordon hit an RBI double to score Balthrop, then scored on an RBI double by Ryan Grey to tie the game 6-6. Mendrop’s two-out RBI single gave WC a short-lived 7-6 lead.

“You have to give Warren Central credit for the way they hit the ball,” Lindsey said. “We couldn’t keep them from scoring. All we could try to do was to keep up.”

The Admirals tied the game again in the sixth when Tyler Ladner scored on a two-out RBI single from Mark Noble.

The seesaw battle continued in the seventh as Balthrop hit a two-out single off McCabe, the Game 1 winner. The senior all-star selection threw 145 pitches in Friday night’s victory, but was called on anyway.

Jonathan Ettinger, running for Balthrop, moved to second on a passed ball and the Admirals intentionally walked Gordon. Ettinger scored the go-ahead run on a single by Eric Douglas for an 8-7 lead.

In the bottom of the seventh, Balthrop allowed a one-out double to McCabe, then coaxed a fly out to center field for the second out. Carlson, the No. 9 hitter, hit a two-strike dribbler just right of the pitcher’s mound, but Balthrop slipped as he was coming off the mound and Carlson reached safely. Then Barney followed with the game-winner.

“I don’t want to sound like a whining story, but it seems that all season long whenever we got into a dogfight, the breaks go against us,” WC coach Randy Broome said. “The wins we’ve had this year have been hard-fought wins. We haven’t had a break to win the game.”

In the series, Warren Central battered Gulfport pitching for 24 hits, but the Vikings left 21 men on – including 13 in Game 2.

In addition to Balthrop’s four hits, Gordon had three hits and an RBI, Mendrop belted three singles and Douglas had a pair of singles.

Noble led Gulfport with three hits and Ladner singled and doubled.

“This one stings because the ball was in my hands and I feel like I let my teammates down,” Balthrop said. “I was just trying to do what I could for the team, and we ended up coming out on the wrong end.”