Vicksburg Missy Gators in 2nd round of playoffs for 2nd consecutive year

Published 9:47 am Monday, April 25, 2016

The Vicksburg Missy Gators still have some work to do before reaching the exalted status of “state power.”

Winning playoff series is the best way to do it, and they’ve already got one under their belt this season and looking for more.

The Missy Gators (8-13) outlasted Oxford in a tough three-game series over the weekend to advance to the second round of the Class 5A fast-pitch softball playoffs. They’ll host Lake Cormorant (14-6) in Game 1 of a best-of-three series Tuesday at 6 p.m. as they try to take another step in the program’s evolution.

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“I was talking to a guy (Friday) up in Oxford and he made a comment that, ‘Hey, we’ve heard a lot about y’all. You’re making waves in the state.’ That’s an awesome thing for me and shows a lot to the girls,” Vicksburg coach Brian Ellis said.

Vicksburg started its program in 1999 and didn’t win a playoff series until beating Center Hill in the first round in 2015. That was a big step, but beating Oxford was bigger. It showed that the Missy Gators can win consistently.

“It’s huge for this program,” Ellis said. “It doesn’t matter what I say, the girls have to buy into it. We set goals every year, and our goal this year was we were going to go farther than we did last year. We want to go all the way to the top. All we’ve got to do is find a way to get that ‘W.’ We can beat anybody. We’ve just got to find a way to do it.”

How they did it against Oxford was by hitting the softball — finally.

The Missy Gators scored 64 runs in their first 18 games. In three games against Oxford they reached double figures twice and scored 30 runs.

They needed every single one of them. VHS won Game 1 13-9, then outlasted the Chargers 13-11 in a wild slugfest in Game 3.

Ellis said the offensive burst was the result of a week of adjustments made in the batting cage. Vicksburg had been shut out twice and scored a total of 16 runs in its last eight games leading into the playoffs. It nearly matched that number twice against Oxford.

“One thing is, we’re trying to stay back more,” Ellis said. “We get too loud with the bottom half our body, so on pitcher’s first movement we go forward and don’t stay back. So we’re already committed to it and can’t stop ourselves. One of the things we worked on through the week was staying back better, and that in turn helps you see the ball a little bit longer and hit good pitches.”

Now the hope is the adjustments stick against a quality Lake Cormorant squad that won the Division 1-5A championship. Pitcher Harley Smith is 7-4 with a 1.56 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 85 1/3 innings. Beating her and the Gators from North Mississippi won’t be easy, but there is one thing Ellis was sure another series victory would be.

“It would be awesome,” he said with a grin. “Totally awesome.”

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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