Warren emerges as Porters Chapel’s closer

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 26, 2010

During Porters Chapel’s run to the 2009 MAIS Class A championship, Matthew Warren did his part with a number of big hits.

As the Eagles try for a repeat in 2010, he’s using his arm to frustrate opponents.

Warren, a junior right-hander, is 7-0 this season with a 2.51 ERA, and has 44 strikeouts in 36 1/3 innings. On Thursday he held Heidelberg to two hits, two walks and one run in a 4-1 victory that not only clinched a first-round sweep, but also served notice that the Eagles won’t be an easy out as they defend their crown.

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“He really has come a long way,” PCA coach Jerry Bourne said of Warren. “Sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s our No. 1 and who’s our No. 2. Matthew Warren shows he’s in the same category every single start.”

PCA’s No. 1 is still, unquestionably, Montana McDaniel. Despite a so-so 4-3 record this season, he has 79 strikeouts and will get the ball for Game 1 of a second-round series tonight at Calvary Christian in Meridian.

Warren, though, has made an impressive push to solidify himself as the Eagles’ No. 2 starter and, as the playoffs progress, the series closer. It’s a long way from last season when he was 4-2 with a 4.14 ERA and did not pitch in the postseason. He did, however, have three game-winning or game-ending hits as the Eagles went 8-0 in the playoffs and won the Class A title.

Warren said a strained ligament in his pitching arm was responsible for keeping him off the mound toward the end of last season. Ironically, so was the emergence of Reed Gordon as a reliable No. 2 starter — now the role Warren has assumed after Gordon struggled on the mound early this year.

“My arm’s not giving me problems. I’m just able to throw a lot better. My velocity is better,” Warren said.

Bourne said Warren’s curveball has also improved, helping him get ahead of hitters and make pitches that lead to easy outs. Against Heidelberg, Warren needed only 68 pitches to throw a complete game. The Rebels hit five balls out of the infield against him.

“He throws a lot of strikes,” Bourne said. “He’s developed his curveball and that helps him early in counts.”

Warren is hoping to take the mound Thursday against Calvary Christian (21-4) with a chance to close out another series. PCA (15-10) split two regular-season games with their district rival, taking the first 13-3 and losing the second 13-4.

Oddly, the lopsided loss in the second meeting has given the Eagles confidence heading into the rematch. They committed eight errors, allowing a close contest to get out of hand. While not taking Calvary lightly, Warren said getting the upper hand in the series was as simple as cleaning up the mistakes and playing as well as they did the first time around.

“We lost that second game. We gave it away,” Warren said. “We proved we can beat them if we don’t make mistakes and hit good.”

Contact Ernest Bowker at ebowker@vicksburgpost.com