Facing elimination not new for Gators|[05/17/08]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 17, 2008

Vicksburg has faced adversity before in its run to the Class 4A state championship series.

The Gators lost the opening game of its second round series at home to Oxford but then won two in a row on the road to claim the series.

Vicksburg (28-9) will need to repeat a similar path starting today when the 4A finals resume with Game 2 against East Central at Trustmark Park at 4 p.m.

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The task, though, will be very difficult. East Central (27-9) pummeled the Gators 13-1 in five innings in Game 1 Thursday night.

The Hornets have now won eight straight playoff games and need one more win to finish with the school’s first state title in baseball since 1981.

“They are sitting in pretty good shape right now,” Vicksburg coach Jamie Creel said of the Hornets. “Hopefully we’ll fight better in Game 2. I didn’t think we fought very hard in the first game.”

Two errors in the first inning helped East Central grab a 4-0 lead against Vicksburg’s ace left-hander Stanton Price. They added two more runs in the second and then Creel pulled Price in the third after he issued two walks, a hit and the Gators defense committed their third error.

If you goToday, 4 p.m. – Vicksburg vs. East Central, at Trustmark ParkOn the radio: 101.3 FMTickets: $8 per gameOnlineFollow all the action with in-game updates atwww.vicksburgpost.comVicksburg was down 9-1 after three innings. Blake Tarnabine, who hadn’t pitched in nearly six weeks, mopped up in the fourth with the Hornets adding four more runs. East Central ace Phillip Byrd retired the Gators in order in the fifth to end the game by the mercy rule, 13-1.

At first Creel no commented about who would pitch for Vicksburg in Game 2.

“No comment. We don’t know. Probably Fitz (Brian Fitzgerald),” Creel said.

Fitzgerald has been the Gators’ No. 2 starter since the fourth week of the season. He is 5-3 on the year and 2-2 in the playoffs. He won Game 3 at Oxford, 7-4, and Game 2 at New Albany, 14-5, to close those series. He lost last Friday night to Tishomingo 4-1 in Game 2 of the North State finals.

East Central will go with Trey Porter (8-3). He’s won his last three starts.

‘Trey has been pitching pretty well the last few weeks,” Byrd said. “He’s been getting ahead in the count and letting our defense work.”

Byrd said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Price come back today if the Gators get in trouble. Price only threw 64 pitches on Thursday.

“Price is a great guy for them and they may go back to him. I think that’s why they pulled him in the third inning,” said Byrd, who moved to 14-0 on the season with the Game 1 win. He struck out eight to give him 164 strikeouts for the season.

Whoever pitches for the Gators will have to find a way to cool off East Central’s Caleb Dickerson.

On Thursday, Dickerson went 4-for-4, scored four runs and drove in four. Three of the RBIs came off a fourth inning triple against Tarnabine.

“He makes us go,” East Central coach Gary Long said.

Long, though, says he expects Vicksburg to bounce back.

“They’ll be back. They’re too good of a team not to,” Long said.

If the Gators can tie up the series with a win in Game 2, a third and deciding game would be played Tuesday at a time to be determined.