Clinton blanks Vicksburg, 4-0

Published 11:38 am Wednesday, April 11, 2012

CLINTON — It took Cameron Cooksey one inning to figure out the strike zone Tuesday night. That was all the time Clinton needed to beat him up and take a big step toward the Division 3-6A championship.

Clinton’s first five batters reached base in the first inning, leading to three runs, and Matt Loper pitched a shutout as the Arrows beat Vicksburg 4-0.

That outcome, combined with Greenville-Weston’s stunning 2-1 upset of Warren Central, all but wrapped up the division title for Clinton (12-10, 6-1 Division 3-6A). The Arrows can’t finish worse than second, and need to beat either Warren Central tonight or Greenville on Thursday — both games are at Clinton — to clinch the title.

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Warren Central can still win the division by beating Clinton and Vicksburg on Thursday, combined with a Clinton loss to Greenville.

“I want our guys to take care of business and us not depend on somebody else. We had that mentality going into today,” Clinton coach Eddie Lofton said.

Vicksburg (11-8, 4-4) cannot win the division, but can still finish second with a Clinton win tonight, and a win over WC Thursday at Bazinsky Field. Vicksburg, Clinton and Warren Central have all clinched playoff berths.

Although his team would benefit more from a Clinton victory over WC, Vicksburg coach Ryan Grey said he’ll be rooting for the Vikings.

“I’m not going to pull against my crosstown rivals. I’d rather those guys beat the Clinton Arrows any day of the week. I’m actually pulling for Warren Central,” Grey said.

Tuesday was a frustrating evening for Vicksburg. Cooksey retired 15 batters in a row at one point, walked only one batter in the game and struck out six. A shaky first inning haunted him all night, though.

Chase Lunceford led off with a double for Clinton, and scored on a single by Benji Barham. Two wild pitches, a passed ball, a hit batter and a walk led to another run, and a successful suicide squeeze made it 3-0.

After the first inning, Cooksey didn’t allow another base runner until Barham led off the sixth with a single to right field. He eventually scored on a groundout to make it 4-0.

“I could’ve hit my spots better, and they were hitting it, but I didn’t realize how far outside that referee was calling strikes until later in the game. If I could’ve known that in the first inning, it would’ve helped me out a lot. I wasn’t changing it,” Cooksey said.

Although Cooksey kept the Gators in the game, their bats never got going against Matt Loper. The junior right-hander effectively mixed speeds and worked the corners to keep Vicksburg off-balance. He allowed just three hits — two of them singles by Michael Rohrer, and an infield hit by Lamar Anthony — and four base runners total. Loper didn’t walk a batter and struck out 10.

“Loper has been one of our most consistent pitchers all year,” Lofton said. “He’s probably got about an 85 percent strike ratio. In my opinion, Vicksburg, when you can fill the zone with fastballs — and his ball runs a little bit — they have problems with that. He changes speeds well, and he did that tonight and was very effective.”

Greenville-Weston 2,Warren Central 1

A bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the eighth inning gave Greenville-Weston its first division win of the season and hurt Warren Central’s division title hopes.

Chase Ladd was a hard-luck loser for Warren Central, which lost its fourth straight game. He allowed eight hits and two runs in 71⁄3 innings, and struck out nine, but got little support. WC only got three hits against Greenville pitchers Kendrick Wooten and Kenneth Hinton. One of the hits was an RBI single by Devon Bell, which tied the game at 1-1 in the fifth inning.

Wooten pitched seven innings and left with a no-decision. He allowed three hits and five walks, and struck out seven.

University Christian 17,Porters Chapel 3

Landon Perkins and Josh Dixon homered, and University Christian rolled to a four-inning run-rule shortened win over Porters Chapel (10-6). Perkins finished the game 3-for-4 with a homer, double and three RBIs. Greg Moore had two hits, including a double, two RBIs and two runs scored.

Schuyler Cool and Jonah Masterson each had a double for PCA.