Gators look toward 4A finals|[05/12/08]

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 12, 2008

IUKA – A happy six-hour trip home was going to be about all the celebrating Vicksburg coach Jamie Creel would allow after his Gators claimed the Class 4A North State championship Saturday at Tishomingo County.

Still, Creel was pretty proud of his team’s accomplishment, to close out a third postseason series on the opponent’s home field. It was also the third time they won a Game 3 through the four rounds of playoffs to reach the Class 4A championship series.

“For a school that had never been out of the second round, to win a North State Championship feels pretty good,” Creel said. “We beat a very good ball club in Tishomingo County. We’ll take about six hours to celebrate this and then start getting ready for the next one.

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“But make no mistake, we’re glad to be here.”

“Here” is the state finals which will begin Thursday night at 7 against East Central (26-9) at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Game 2 will be Saturday at 4 at Trustmark.

The Gators (28-8) got there by rallying to a 7-4 win in Game 3 of their series with Tishomingo County (28-8). They had won Game 1, 8-2 at Warren Central’s Viking Field and then lost Game 2, 4-1, Friday night in Iuka.

How they did it was with good pitching and a knack for coming up with the big at-bat at the right time.

Case in point was the patient eye of leadoff batter Delmon Robinson. In the second inning, with the game tied at 1, Robinson drew a bases-loaded walk on a 3-2 pitch to bring in Brian Fitzgerald for a 2-1 Vicksburg lead.

The Gators lost the lead in the bottom of the fourth after two defensive errors led to a three-run rally by the Braves to make it 4-2. But in the fifth, Robinson was back to lead off and he did his job, getting another walk after closely eyeing a 3-2 pitch.

“My job is to get on base and most of the time, a walk is the best way. Once I get on, I feel I can make some big things happen,” Robinson said.

Once on in the fifth, he stole second and then raced around to score after a double by Stanton Price made it 4-3.

“I think the big key for us today, was Delmon getting on base so many times. We can stay with our game because with him on base, we have Stanton coming next,” Creel said.

With Price on second, Trey Prentiss quickly erased the one-run deficit with a two-run homer to right field off TC reliever Tyler Pritchard for a 5-4 lead.

“It was a pretty fat pitch, a straight fastball,” Prentiss said. It was his second decisive home run of the playoffs. The other big one came in Game 3 at Oxford, which also led to a 7-4 Gator win.

Prentiss then got a measure of revenge against TC pitcher Matt Davis, who struck him out three times on Thursday in Game 1.

“I just had to stay back and wait for the pitch. I was able to step out and drive it through the six hole,” Prentiss said of his sixth inning single that scored Robinson, who had reached on his third walk of the game.

Robinson finished with two runs scored and an RBI. Prentiss had three RBIs off his two hits.

Bowen Woodson continued his great run through the playoffs with a solo home run in the fifth to cap the decisive four-run rally that handed Price a two-run lead. It was also his fourth home run of the playoffs, with one coming in each of the four series.