Vikings rebound to beat Northwest and force Game 3
Published 12:24 am Saturday, April 30, 2016
FLOWOOD — Nic Hogan, Northwest Rankin’s big first baseman, swung and drove the ball deep toward the right field wall as silence fell over Warren Central’s dugout. A night of hard work and perseverance, seemingly, had disappeared in a matter of minutes.
Dread soon turned to elation, however. Right fielder John Austin Burris drew a bead on the ball, tracked it down on the run and on the warning track, and the Vikings lived to see another day.
Burris’ game-ending catch allowed the Vikings to escape a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the bottom of the seventh inning and beat Northwest Rankin 3-2 Friday night in Game 2 of their second-round Class 6A playoff series.
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Warren Central (21-7) ended Northwest Rankin’s 10-game winning streak and forced a decisive Game 3 Monday night at 7 at WC’s Viking Field.
“It was fun at the end,” Warren Central coach Conner Douglas said. “It’s fun seeing guys step up, the guys that you depend on all year, your senior leaders that are going to college to play and you just saw why. Seniors making the big plays right there when it matters. It was a great night for us. We have a lot of momentum going into Game 3.”
Northwest Rankin (21-9) won Game 1 10-0 as Warren Central committed a season-high six errors. Game 2 was a lot more of what both sides expected in a long-running rivalry that has produced far more tight, tense games than blowouts.
Northwest Rankin turned three double plays in the game, including two in the first three innings to keep it scoreless. Warren Central pitcher Booth Buys cruised through the first five innings without allowing a run before running into trouble in the sixth.
Warren Central scored two runs in the fourth inning on a walk and a hit batter with the bases loaded, and added a third in the top of the fifth on an RBI double by Tyler Vroman.
Buys loaded the bases before leaving in the sixth. Northwest Rankin got a run back as Blake Morris hit into a fielder’s choice, but reliever Farmer Abendroth got out of the jam without further damage.
That only served to set up a wild seventh inning, though.
With Warren Central still leading 3-1, Abendroth loaded the bases with no outs on two singles and a walk. The freshman was pulled for senior Brooks Boolos, who inherited a 2-0 count on Tyler Kersh.
Boolos got Kersh to hit a sharp grounder up the middle. It was fielded by Conner Wilkinson and turned into a slick double play by second baseman Tanner Chambers for the first two outs of the inning. A run scored on the play, however, to cut the lead to 3-2.
“He hit one that went right between my legs. Conner, who has not played short one time all year, not even practiced there, made an unbelievable double play,” Boolos said.
Boolos’ next pitch hit Ian Ladner in the shoulder and he walked Jackson Hailey to reload the bases and bring up Hogan, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound power hitter.
Hogan swung at the third pitch and hit a long, high, slicing fly ball toward the right field corner. At first, it looked like it might sail well over the fence for a walk-off grand slam, but Burris hauled it in to instead bring the series back to Vicksburg.
“Right when he hit it, I thought it was gone,” Boolos said. “I was like, ‘That’s it, it’s done.’ Then I saw Jab (Burris) tracking it and he caught it, and the emotions hit.”
WARREN CENTRAL VS. NORTHWEST RANKIN
Class 6A baseball playoffs
Game 1: Northwest Rankin 10, Warren Central 0
Game 2: Warren Central 3, Northwest Rankin 2
Game 3: Monday, 7 p.m., at Warren Central