Gators respectful, but not in awe of Cougars|[4/28/06]

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 28, 2006

Vicksburg High players and coaches know well the history of success at Northwest Rankin.

The Cougars are 28-4 and the defending Class 5A state champions. The Gators respect those accomplishments, but by no means are they in awe of the Cougars.

&#8220They are the defending state champions and know what it takes to get things done,” VHS coach Jamie Creel said. &#8220It would be safe to say that we are the underdog, but we don’t mind that role whatsoever.”

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The two teams begin a best-of-three series tonight at 7 at Northwest Rankin in Brandon. Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday at 7 at Bazinsky Field. If a third game is needed, it would be Thursday at 7 at Northwest.

&#8220The biggest challenge we’ll face is hitting their pitching because they have a great pitching staff,” said Vicksburg senior Steven Price, who will be on the mound tonight. &#8220We may have to play small-ball to get something going against them. They are not easy to score runs on.”

The Cougars will send a pair of Southern Miss signees to the mound, likely Todd McInnis in the first game and Jordan King in the second.

McInnis is 8-1 with a 1.02 ERA and has struck out 88 compared to only 18 walks. King is 7-1 with a 1.70 ERA and the Cougars’ third pitcher, Daniel Cowart, is 6-1 with a 0.95 ERA.

The two teams have met once this season, a 7-0 Northwest win on senior night at Bazinsky Field.

&#8220You can’t win if you don’t hit,” said VHS centerfielder Gerald Mims, who had a key home run in the series-clinching win over Warren Central on Saturday. &#8220We have to go in with the mindset that every pitch he throws across the plate, we are going to swing at it.”

The Gators are coming off an emotional, gut-wrenching series at Southaven. After beating Warren Central and host Southaven on April 20, the Gators played WC twice on Saturday, winning the final game 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh.

&#8220It was definitely excruciating up there in Southaven,” Creel said. &#8220It was mentally and physically draining.”

With the three wins in the first round, the Gators have surpassed the amount of playoff wins by any other Vicksburg team.

Sophomore Stanton Price, who threw a shutout against Southaven and pitched two days later against WC, will get the nod in the second game of the season.

&#8220I have to come out ready to pitch,” Steven Price said. &#8220We all think we can win and that’s what we need right now. We are going to go after them.”