Cougars thump Vikings

Published 11:00 pm Friday, April 13, 2012

FLOWOOD — Whatever the outcome, Warren Central coach Josh Abraham had hoped to see some positive things from his team and build some momentum for the playoffs when he scheduled powerhouses Northwest Rankin and Madison Central in the final weekend of the regular season.

He got none of that Friday night.

The Vikings committed six errors, leading to nine unearned runs, and managed only two hits as they were spanked by Northwest Rankin, 14-1.

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It was Warren Central’s fifth loss in six games, a dismal stretch that doesn’t get any easier before the postseason begins next Friday. WC (14-12) will play at Madison Central today, then finish the regular season Monday at home against Port Gibson.

“The way they play reflects coaching. I’m not doing my job right now,“ Abraham said. “Fortunately, we have playoffs coming up and a couple more games to get going. I believe in these guys. I believe they’ll give it all they’ve got and make a run. But, again, I will not blame these kids. It is completely on me. I have to do a better job getting them off the bus and prepared to play the game.”

The problems started immediately for the Vikings on Friday night. Northwest Rankin leadoff hitter Daniel Sweet lifted an easy fly ball to center that was dropped by WC’s Trey Prentiss. The next batter, Wesley Watts, hit a sharp grounder that went between the legs of second baseman Travis Barnett, allowing Sweet to score the game’s first run.

Two more errors in the third inning, along with a passed ball, ignited a seven-run outburst that ripped the game open. Kreg Garner doubled twice in the inning for Northwest Rankin (24-2), the second of which brought in two runs. Alex Shermer and Jordan Stark also had RBI singles.

Northwest Rankin added another six runs in the fourth, as it batted around for the second inning in a row. Three of its five hits in the fourth inning were doubles.

Before the fourth inning, Abraham pulled most of his starters from the game. He said it was an attempt to spark the team, not send a message about its poor play.

“We’re just trying to get some other guys some opportunities. Those guys didn’t come out here and try to make errors,” Abraham said. “That’s not something we typically do a lot of, because we know our guys play hard. There were some guys over here really into the game and we wanted to try and give them an opportunity and get us back in the game. I’m not giving up on anybody, and I hope they haven’t given up on me.”

WC didn’t get a hit until Cody Waddell led off top of the fourth with a single. He eventually scored on a ground out by Hunter Austin, but that was the high point of WC’s offensive output. Its only other hit was an infield single by Bill McRight in the fifth inning, and only four batters total reached base.

One of the few bright spots for WC was sophomore pitcher Cameron Upton. The right-hander gave up eight runs in three innings, but only two were earned. Four of WC’s errors came during his stint on the mound and in prolonged innings he likely would’ve escaped with minimal damage.

“He continues to go out there and absolutely dominate the strike zone,” Abraham said of Upton. “Obviously, we didn’t make a few plays behind him and errors snowball on you. But he gets out here every time he pitches and does a heck of a job.”