Division lead on line for VHS, Vikings|[3/23/06]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Warren Central Vikings are walking a fine line this week.

Win two games from archrival Vicksburg tonight and Friday, and they can celebrate their first division title since 2002 and make plans to host a first-round Class 5A regional.

Lose one or both games, though, and the plans go up in smoke. Not only would Vicksburg be back in the Division 3-5A title hunt, but so would Madison Central.

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The Vikings start their treacherous journey down the tightrope tonight at 6 when they host VHS.

&#8220This week is probably going to be the two toughest games of the year,” said Warren Central pitcher Eric Douglas, who will likely be on the hill for the first game against the Gators. &#8220It’s going to be interesting to see how it turns out.”

Thanks to a shift in the format for the Class 5A playoffs, winning the division title is important – especially in this loaded division.

The winner not only hosts a three-team regional in the first round, it gets to play the winner of the first game immediately after that team has finished playing.

The two teams in the first game also come from the same division. That means two of the three teams in the Division 3-5A race – either Madison, Vicksburg or WC – will meet for a fourth time in their opening game.

&#8220The way the playoffs are set up, you want to win your district and host, and that puts the two and three playing before you. And you don’t want to have to play five games,” WC coach Randy Broome said. &#8220Most high schools don’t go three or four deep on arms. That’s a huge advantage for a No. 1.”

It’s also an advantage the Vicksburg Gators plan on claiming for themselves.

Vicksburg is 3-1 in division play, one game behind WC’s perfect 4-0 mark. With a sweep of the Vikings, VHS would vault itself into first place with three division games remaining, one each against WC, Madison (1-3 in the division) and Greenville (0-4). It would also clinch the season series against the Vikings, giving the Gators a tiebreaker advantage.

A split, along with the expected Madison Central sweep of Greenville this week, throws the championship race into chaos. That would give all three frontrunners a chance heading into the last round of division play.

&#8220If one team sweeps the other, that puts them in the driver’s seat. But there’s still a lot of baseball left. If we split, then everybody’s back in the race,” VHS coach Jamie Creel said. &#8220(Madison) is every bit alive. Even though they have three losses, they’re going to be pulling for us. Madison is dangerous.”

In the end, though, Vicksburg and Warren Central are in control of their own destinies and will likely settle the matter between themselves.

WC has used solid hitting and the surprisingly strong one-two pitching punch of Douglas and Nick Carson to vault into first place. Both hurlers have an ERA under 2.00, and are 4-0 since Douglas lost his first two starts.

Vicksburg, meanwhile, has simply pounded opponents into submission. The Gators are hitting .373 as a team, and have two starters batting over .500. Steven Price leads the team with a .588 average, while Jordan Henry is hitting .543.

Price has also been dominant on the mound. In three starts, he is 3-0, has not allowed an earned run and has 22 strikeouts in 14 innings.

He will start Friday’s game at Bazinsky Field. His younger brother, left-handed Stanton Price (3-2, 1.42 ERA) will start tonight’s game.

If there is one weakness in the Gators’ armor, it’s a recent swoon in which they have suffered defensive lapses and failed to put teams away.

Vicksburg has lost three of its last four after a 9-0 start.

&#8220We just haven’t been completing things. We’re putting up 15 or 20 hits and not scoring 15 or 20 runs,” Vicksburg third baseman Tyler Wells said. &#8220It’s been a lack of focus to put people away. We pound them the first couple of innings, and then we don’t step on their throat to put them away.”

A failure to do that could mean a couple more losses for the Gators. The Vikings aren’t expecting their rivals to continue their slide, though.

&#8220They’ve got a good offense and a good defense,” Douglas said. &#8220They’re an all-around good team, so it’s going to be a dogfight.”

Team Leaders.

Warren Central.


Player Avg. HR 2B RBI.

Josh Gordon .525 4 3 11.

Kyle Calhoun .382 0 6 7.

Nick Carson .378 4 2 10.


Player W-L ERA SO.

Nick Carson 2-0 1.33 30.

Eric Douglas 2-2 1.93 30.



Player Avg. HR 2B RBI.

Steven Price .588 0 7 9.

Jordan Henry .543 0 5 16.

Stanton Price .400 0 6 11.


Player W-L ERA SO.

Stanton Price 3-2 1.42 27.

Steven Price 3-0 0.00 22