Vikings, Gators renew rivalry

Published 12:03 pm Friday, March 11, 2011

Approaching the first signpost of the season, both Warren Central and Vicksburg are enjoying the ride so far.

Both teams have played well, with a couple of close losses the only blemishes on the record, Both boast team batting averages near .400 and strong, deep pitching staffs. Each one also considers itself a contender for the Division 4-6A championship — as if they needed another reason to amp up the intensity for their Warren County grudge match.

The Vikings and Gators hook up at Bazinsky Field tonight at 7 for the first of three meetings this season. The winner will get bragging rights — at least until next Friday when they face each other again at Viking Field — and, more importantly, a leg up in the division pennant race.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

With the two Warren County teams and Clinton expected to be neck-and-neck in the division, every head-to-head matchup is crucial.

“It’s an evenly matched game. It’s pretty much the same groups they had and we had last year, so we feel like we know them well,” Warren Central coach Josh Abraham said. “There’s no better way to start in the district than Vicksburg-Warren Central.”

Warren Central might have liked a better start to the season, but only in terms of wins and losses. It has dropped a pair of one-run games during a 3-3 start, despite a lineup that’s hitting .384 as a team.

Its pitching staff has also shown some depth. Three hurlers — Carlos Gonzalez, Devon Bell and Beau Wallace — have pitched effectively. The list doesn’t even include perhaps the team’s best pitcher, Blake Jobe, who has missed a week of practice with a minor back injury.

“We like what we’ve established in these first four or five games. The wins might not show, but we’ve got guys that can win. Especially in our division,” Abraham said. “We’ve played really hard and aggressive, and really swung it well. Maybe not at the most opportune times, but we’ve got four or five guys over .400.”

So do the Gators (3-3), which is just one among many similarities they share with Warren Central.

Vicksburg’s two losses have also been by one run, it has five players batting over .400 — led by center fielder Lamar Anthony, who’s gone a blistering 10-for-20 at the plate in five games — and has also shown a surprising amount of depth on the mound.

Cody Waddell is the team’s ace and will get the ball on Friday night, but left Clyde Kendrick is 1-0 with a 3.32 ERA in two starts. Another top arm, Cameron Cooksey, also returned this week after being part of Vicksburg’s basketball team that reached the Class 6A championship game.

Cooksey has played in one game, but has seen limited practice time on the baseball field.

“We’ve hit the ball very well. We’ve pitched well too,” Vicksburg coach Cody Zumbro said. “Clyde has stepped up and Cody Waddell has been solid in all of his outings.”

Although Zumbro was pleased with the main pieces of his junior-laden squad, he’s been particularly impressed with several freshmen who have emerged in the early going.

Infielder Michael Rohrer and catcher/infielder Josh Sterling both filled in well defensively in Cooksey’s absence. Rohrer has also gone 1-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored in six plate appearances.

“Our freshmen have really stepped up. Michael Rohrer has been great at shortstop and Josh Sterling has been good behind the plate. They’re going to give us some depth as this thing goes along,” Zumbro said.

Like his two freshmen, Zumbro will be getting his first real taste of the Vicksburg-Warren Central rivalry. He grew familiar with it — and had his share of battles with both teams — as an assistant coach at Clinton.

“Being at Clinton for so long, it’s not the same thing, but we had some big battles with Warren Central. It was intense,” Zumbro said. “I know the importance of it, but I guess we’ll see when we get out there Friday.”

Warren Central was trying to take a more low-key approach. After being encouraged by his coach to avoid any trash talk, Gonzalez said that in the end both sides have to remember it still only counts as one game in the standings.

“It’s going to be fun. We’re going to treat it like any other game. We’re going to try to win. They’re a good team, but we are too,��� Gonzalez said. “It’s important so we can get on top and hopefully go 1-0.”