Vikings hang on to beat Vicksburg

Published 11:30 am Friday, April 18, 2014

Vicksburg catcher Josh Sterling, right, loses his glove as it's knocked off by Warren Central's Hunter Bell (9) on a play at the plate in the second inning Thursday. (Ernest Bowker/The Vicksburg Post)

Vicksburg catcher Josh Sterling, right, loses his glove as it’s knocked off by Warren Central’s Hunter Bell (9) on a play at the plate in the second inning Thursday. (Ernest Bowker/The Vicksburg Post)

Warren Central put seven runs on the board in the second inning alone, and 10 in the first three innings Thursday night.

It needed every single one of them to maintain the upper hand in its rivalry with Vicksburg High.

Vicksburg erased all but the last of an early seven-run deficit, getting within a run in the sixth inning and putting the tying run on third base in the bottom of the seventh.

WC closer Brooks Boolos shut the door, however, and the Vikings escaped Bazinsky Field with a 10-9 victory over their crosstown foes.

“(Vicksburg) battled. They got a lot of big hits and they competed. I hate they had to come away with a loss, because they played a heck of a game,” WC coach Conner Douglas said. “We just have to get the job done when we have runners out there all night, and we didn’t tonight. But we got away with a win and we have another game tomorrow.”

It was Warren Central’s fifth consecutive win over the Gators, and second this season. WC won the first meeting 16-3 on April 5.

It was the latest success for the Vikings (20-5) during a difficult stretch of four games in four days. They’ve won the first three, and will play at Northwest Rankin this afternoon.

Thursday’s victory also marked the first time since 2006 that Warren Central has reached the 20-win mark in a season.

“That’s big. It’s always kind of a goal to get to 20-plus wins. We got there, now we want to keep adding on,” Douglas said.

For Vicksburg (11-11), the loss was as heartening as it was disappointing.

The Gators trailed 7-0 and 10-3, but battled back. John Plummer went 2-for-5 with a double and three RBIs, Marc Grace had three hits, and Lee Middleton went 1-for-2 with a pair of RBIs and two runs scored.

Vicksburg's Lee Middleton loses his helmet as he slides into third base during Thursday's game against Warren Central. Middleton went 1-for-2 with a single, two RBIs and two runs scored, but the Gators lost 10-9. (Ernest Bowker/The Vicksburg Post)

Vicksburg’s Lee Middleton loses his helmet as he slides into third base during Thursday’s game against Warren Central. Middleton went 1-for-2 with a single, two RBIs and two runs scored, but the Gators lost 10-9. (Ernest Bowker/The Vicksburg Post)

The Gators scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, then got within a run at 10-9 in the fifth on an RBI single by Plummer and a bases-loaded walk to Michael Rohrer.

“We settled down. Our pitchers started filling up the strike zone and we started making plays behind them. That flipped the switch,” Vicksburg coach Ryan Grey said.

The Gators left runners at third base in each of the last two innings, though, as Boolos sidestepped a pair of leadoff hits to earn his fifth save of the season.

Although the comeback came up short, Grey said he was happy with the way his team fought to make a game of it.

“It showed the guys that if we don’t lay down and quit, no matter what deficit we’re down, if we show up to play we can play with anybody,” Grey said. “That’s a top-10 team in the state we played down to the wire. I know it’s a tough loss. It’s going to sting and it’s going to hurt for a little while. But hopefully we can take a lot of positives from it.”

In the bottom of the seventh, Grace led off with a single and got to third on a stolen base and a passed ball.

Boolos induced a pair of easy fly balls for the first two outs, then got Rohrer to hit a hard grounder to second base for the final out.

“I’ve never really been through anything like that. I’m just a sophomore. I was glad I got the job done,” said Boolos, who allowed three runs over the last 3 1/3 innings. “It was just stress. I understand pitchers now that do that kind of stuff.”

The second half of the game was a 180-degree turn from the first three innings.

Brock Barnes had a two-run double, Marcus Ragan followed with a two-run triple, and Vicksburg committed three errors during the big second inning that put Warren Central ahead 7-0.

In the third, the Vikings got two runs on one wild pitch. Mason Jarabica scored easily from third base, and Ragan scooted around from second when the Gators were slow to corral the ball. Ragan niftily sidestepped a tag attempt and then scored without a play at the plate.

An RBI triple by Cameron Upton in the fourth inning made it 10-3 before Vicksburg started its comeback.

WC only had one hit — a seventh-inning double by Ragan — after the fourth inning.

“I think we just hit cruise control,” Douglas said. “We’ve done that the last few games. It’s my fault. I’ve got to keep them motivated.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

email author More by Ernest