Vikings ready to tangle with Desoto
Published 10:33 am Monday, May 4, 2015
Desoto Central came within a run of winning the Class 6A championship last season and got to the semifinals the year before that.
Warren Central hasn’t won a state championship since 2001. It hasn’t even been to the semifinals in 10 years.
Desoto Central has five players who signed with either Mississippi State or Ole Miss.
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Warren Central has three who are heading to junior colleges.
Desoto Central has hit 25 home runs.
Warren Central has hit three, one of which was inside the park.
In sizing up this Class 6A quarterfinal series that begins Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Warren Central, it’s obvious the two schools have little in common except the “Central” in their names.
It’s a matchup in which Warren Central will play the David role to Desoto’s Goliath, yet is confident it can figure out a way to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2005.
“We just have to play our baseball, and not play their baseball,” Warren Central shortstop Brooks Boolos said. “They have this big boy style of baseball, a bunch of big guys, and we’re going to have to play small ball and do all the little things right. That’s how we’re going to win.”
What Warren Central (17-11) does have going for it is a seeming obliviousness to the idea that it’s not supposed to win this week.
Of the four teams left in the North half of the Class 6A bracket, the Vikings are a wild card. Desoto Central, Northwest Rankin and Clinton are all perennial powers.
Warren Central has beaten two of the three this season — it hasn’t yet faced Desoto — and has the confidence it can play with the best in the state.
“It makes you know you can beat anybody. We know we can do that, but we just have to focus,” Boolos said. “I think we’re due. Maybe we’ll show Desoto Central who’s boss.”
Both teams are coming off tough three-game series in the second round. Desoto Central (22-8) ousted Madison Central, while Warren Central knocked out Grenada.
The Vikings had a big series from senior center fielder Marcus Ragan, an East Mississippi Community College signee. Ragan went 6-for-8 with four extra base hits, six RBIs and three runs scored in three games.
Ragan will ride a nine-game hitting streak into the Desoto series and leads the team with a .433 average.
“He was snakebit there for a while. He was hitting balls right at people. But he’s hitting .420 or .430. He’s a tough out,” Warren Central coach Conner Douglas said. “He’s maybe one of the best I’ve seen at any level, as far as a complete ballplayer.”
The Vikings could use another big series from Ragan, but the key will likely be their pitching.
Junior left-hander Layne Tedder allowed one earned run in a complete-game win in Game 1 against Grenada. Senior lefty Layne Tedder pitched five no-hit innings in Game 2, but gave up four walks and lost.
Getting good performances from those two to counter the power arms — and power bats — of Desoto Central will be critical.
The Jaguars have nine players who have hit at least one home run this season. Senior catcher Austin Riley leads the team with 10.
“We trust Taft to limit them to a few runs,” Boolos said. “They have big home run hitting guys. We think he can keep it low in the zone and keep them at bay. But we’re going to have to hit the ball.”
Game 2 of the best-of-three series is Thursday at 6 p.m. at Desoto Central. If Game 3 is necessary, it’ll be Friday at 6 p.m. at Warren Central.
Warren Central vs. Desoto Central
Game 1: Tuesday, 6 p.m., at WC
Game 2: Thursday, 6 p.m., at Desoto
Game 3: Friday, 6 p.m., at WC (if necessary)