Vikings advance to face Desoto

Published 12:50 am Saturday, May 2, 2015

Warren Central catcher Tyler McRight hugs pitcher Brooks Boolos after the final out of Friday’s 3-2 playoff series-clinching victory at Viking Field. (Ernest Bowker/The Vicksburg Post)

Warren Central catcher Tyler McRight hugs pitcher Brooks Boolos after the final out of Friday’s 3-2 playoff series-clinching victory at Viking Field. (Ernest Bowker/The Vicksburg Post)

In the 10 years since its last deep run into the postseason, Warren Central had won a few playoff series and even a division title, but had gradually seen its status erode among Mississippi’s elite baseball programs.

Welcome back, guys.

Warren Central beat Grenada 3-2 in Game 3 on Friday night to advance beyond the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2005.

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The Vikings are into the Class 6A quarterfinals, where they’ll face last year’s runner-up Desoto Central. That best-of-three series begins Tuesday night at 6 at Warren Central.

“It’s kind of a psychological thing. I feel like it’s been weighing on me since I’ve been here, six years now,” Warren Central coach Conner Douglas said. “The guys are seeing their success, and it’s been fun for them. They get to experience something no one has done in 10 years, so I’m happy for the guys.”

The Vikings used some contributions from unheralded players to beat Grenada.

Freshman pitcher Aaron Greene started and allowed one unearned run in four-plus innings. Little-used junior infielder Tanner Chambers entered the game late as a defensive replacement and made a leaping grab to steal a hit with a runner on in the seventh inning.

The biggest star of the series, though, was a guy who has been getting it done all season long.

Senior center fielder Marcus Ragan went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored in Game 3. He led off the bottom of the first inning with a double and scored on a two-run double by Zach Cox.

In the fifth inning, Ragan reached base by hustling to beat out what appeared to be an easy ground ball to first base. He then stole second, reached third by avoiding a tag on a grounder to the left side, and scored on a double steal when Grenada’s shortstop dropped the ball near second base.

Ragan’s second run put Warren Central ahead 3-1, and turned out to be the winning run.

“Every time, no matter where the ball is hit, I try to hustle out of the box just to make them rush. Then it paid off after that,” Ragan said.

In the series, Ragan was 6-for-8 with two triples, two doubles, three runs scored and six RBIs. He’s hitting over .400 for the season.

“You know he’s going to get on. It’s just like clockwork. He’s a special player and he makes things happen. He’s an X-Factor and he wins ballgames for you,” Douglas said.

The Vikings never trailed in Game 3, but never pulled away either. That led to a few tense moments in the seventh inning when they committed two infield errors to bring in a run and put the tying run in scoring position.

With two outs, closer Brooks Boolos got Dane Bevell to chase a fastball for strike three to end the game and send the Vikings on to the next round.

Boolos, who had blown a save opportunity in Game 2, pitched the last three innings Friday. He didn’t give up a hit or a walk, and allowed just the one unearned run in the seventh inning.

“It was pretty tense. I was trying to focus on not walking anybody, was the main thing,” Boolos said. “It’s big getting to the third round for us. Hopefully we can get the bats going for the next round.”

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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