VHS thrilled with 3rd-round playoff series|[05/02/08]

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 2, 2008

Two teams new to being in the third round in the Class 4A baseball playoffs start a series today at Warren Central’s Viking Field.

Vicksburg (24-7) advanced to its series against New Albany (26-7) by winning two games in Oxford last weekend, 9-2 in Game 2 and 7-4 in Game 3, to overcome a Game 1 loss at WC. The comeback marks the first time coach Jamie Creel’s Gators have made it to the third round of the playoffs, but the second time in three years they’ve been to the quarterfinal round. In 2006, VHS won the Class 5A Southaven Regional but then lost in two games to Northwest Rankin.

Junior third baseman Bowen Woodson, who has hit two home runs in the postseason, says the Gators success in the playoffs was expected.

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“It’s real exciting but at the same time we knew we had a lot of talent. It would’ve been a disappointment had we not gotten this far,” Woodson said.

In each of their first two series, the Gators had to win a pressure-packed third game. They beat Neshoba Central 10-3 behind senior left-hander Stanton Price’s second complete game in three days. Price won his third playoff start at Oxford in Game 2 and then picked up the save.

Through the playoffs, he’s 3-0 with a save and has allowed just five runs in 22 1/3 innings of playoff baseball. He’s also had a hot bat, going 13-for-17 at the plate. For the season he’s hitting .495 with 38 RBIs and seven home runs. He is also 8-1 with a 1.02 ERA as the team’s ace.

“He’s one of the best players in Mississippi,” New Albany coach Curt Fowler told the New Albany Gazette this week.

Price and the Gators have been on a roll since returning from their annual trip to Monroe, La. After dropping three straight in the Ouachita Parish Tournament to fall to 7-5, the Gators won 17 of their last 19 games. The two losses came in the playoffs.

Weather UpdatesFifteen of their 24 wins have come against either Mississippi or Louisiana playoff teams, including Clinton, Warren Central, Ridgeland, Pearl, Yazoo City, Neshoba Central, Oxford along with Ruston and Tioga in Louisiana.

“We’ve been a different team ever since Coach Creel gave us a stern talk after we returned from Monroe,” Woodson said. “It inspired us to play up to our potential.”

As a team, the Gators have hit 28 home runs this season. Blake Hynum (.494, 31 RBIs) has seven homers while Woodson (.385, 29 RBIs) and Prentiss (.354, 31 RBIs) have five each.

New Albany comes in having won 26 games and advancing to third round under Fowler. Last week they dethroned defending Class 4A champion West Lauderdale in three games. They lost the first game in Collinsville 6-1, but came back and won two in New Albany 2-1 and 8-3.

“They have a lefty who throws a lot of junk and a pretty good righty,” Woodson said of the Bulldogs’ top two arms.

The best player for the Bulldogs is Daniel Tunnell, who has slugged 10 home runs and is the team’s top right-handed pitcher with a 5-2 record. He has signed with Northeast Community College. Sawyer Wheatley is another top hitter and had a key two-run triple in Game 3 against West Lauderdale.