Pitching duo powers Missy Gators

Published 11:56 am Monday, April 28, 2014

For a long time, Faith Thomas was Vicksburg High’s workhorse in the pitcher’s circle.

Faith Thomas

Faith Thomas

Over the last three seasons, the senior struck out 450 batters and posted an ERA under 2.00. She threw more than 300 innings.

Even the best need a little help now and then, however, and Thomas has welcomed the arrival of an assistant.

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Senior Chandler Ellis has emerged as a reliable second pitcher for the Missy Gators. Her 2-5 record includes a 1-0, nine-inning complete-game loss at Riverside, and she’s got a 2.40 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 35 innings.

The duo gives Vicksburg depth and options as it heads into a Class 5A first-round playoff series against Germantown (9-7).

“I feel like we’re really good together. When I need backup and not feeling my best, she can come in,” said Thomas, a Hinds Community College signee. “It’s never been like that, because we’ve never had another senior pitcher with us. I’ve always had to do it by myself. Now I have some backup.”

Ellis, who also plays first base, seems happy to defer to the more experienced Thomas when it comes to pitching. Ellis described it as a mentor-student relationship, where she’s often looking to Thomas for pointers.

“Faith is my competition as a teammate. Watching her pitch, when she’s really dominating, I look at it as that’s a way I can get better,” Ellis said. “If a pitch isn’t working and I need help, I’m going to ask Faith. If she’s getting angry or down because she walked someone, I’m there to pick her up. We pick each other up.”

Besides the cordial aspect of being teammates, the Missy Gators’ pitching tag team works because of the difference in styles between the two partners.

Thomas is a hard thrower who can blow a fastball by opposing hitters. Ellis is a slower-throwing junkballer who relies on changing speeds and locations to get the job done.

Being able to switch between the styles during a game — or during a playoff series — is a valuable asset, Vicksburg coach Brian Ellis said.

Brian Ellis is Chandler Ellis’ father.

“Being able to have two pitchers, where you don’t wear them out, that helps a lot,” Brian Ellis said. “If you have a team that swings the bat well and hits the fastball well, you can bring in somebody like Chandler that keeps them off speed and on their front foot so they hit bloopers and ground balls. Then you bring somebody like Faith in, that throws the ball hard. We’ve got a lot of options.”

The Missy Gators might need them this week. Although Germantown is only two games over .500, it beat Vicksburg 9-1 in the only meeting between the teams this season.

The series is scheduled to begin with Game 1 tonight at 6 at Germantown, with Games 2 and 3 played as a doubleheader Tuesday at Bazinsky Park. If tonight’s game is rained out by the severe weather forecast to affect the state, Game 1 will be Tuesday and Games 2 and 3 on Wednesday.

The Missy Gators (12-12) won the Division 4-5A title — they and Pearl were the only teams in the division — and are a team on the rise. They improved by nine wins over last season.

The next step is to win a playoff series.

“It’d be really nice to make it to state. I want to go at least two rounds, because we’ve never been past the first round, and I know we can do it because we have a really good team this year,” Thomas said.

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 reporters in the paper's 140-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.

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