Vikings drop pair in preseason jamboree

Published 8:00 am Sunday, February 18, 2018

FLOWOOD — Rain clouds crept across the sky as Warren Central played its baseball jamboree at Northwest Rankin High School. It was an ominous sign, and one that might have been fitting given how the first few weeks of practice have gone.

The Vikings have been ravaged by injuries — some serious, some minor — so far, with nearly a third of the roster banged up to some extent. The remaining players are adjusting to new roles and positions, which showed in the first on-field effort of 2018.

The Vikings lost 9-3 to Northwest Rankin and 7-2 to Brandon in a pair of four-inning games Saturday. They wasted early leads in both games and committed a total of six errors.

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“We’ve got seven or eight guys right now that aren’t able to get on the field and practice. We have 25 players. Two are at basketball and only 15 or 16 are dressing out,” Warren Central coach Conner Douglas said. “It’s tough. There’s not many guys out there to compete and we can’t do a whole lot of scrimmage stuff. The biggest problem is we’re down on arms because of those injuries, so we don’t get to see much live arms. Even today, we’re having to stretch guys out and throw a lot more than we want to.”

Warren Central’s season opener is Friday at home, at 7 p.m. against Northwest Rankin. It’ll face Hernando the following day at Madison-Ridgeland Academy, and then Brandon again on Feb. 27. Saturday’s games were exhibitions, but still provided a gauge on where the Vikings stand heading into the season.

The reading was not nearly as good as what Douglas and his players hope it will be three months from now.

The Vikings jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning against Northwest Rankin, but only scored once more and left several runners on base. The Cougars scored five runs in the bottom of the fourth — they batted in the final inning despite holding a lead, thanks to the rules of the jamboree — to blow it open.

Shane Lewis and Landon Stewart each had a double for Warren Central, while Vantrel Reed singled and walked twice.

The second game, against Brandon, followed a similar pattern. Alan Kivett walked and scored on a sacrifice fly to stake WC to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, and then Brandon took the lead for good on a two-run home run by D.J. Walker in the bottom half.

Tristan Tigrett and Garrett Stanford had RBI singles for the Bulldogs, and an assortment of passed balls, wild pitches and errors led to a couple more runs in the 7-2 loss. Only two of Brandon’s seven runs were earned.

Hank Holdiness doubled twice for Warren Central, and Stewart doubled and scored a run. The Vikings, though, had seven straight batters retired at one point.

“I was fine with our hitting. I think we swung it well. We left some guys out there and didn’t get the timely hit. But right now we’re more concerned with how we threw it and the way we played defensively,” Douglas said. “I feel like we’ll have a lot of depth on the mound and defensively we’re going to be real strong, but with some guys out of position right now we’ve got to get better there.”

All in all, Douglas chalked it up to a bad day early in the season against a couple of good teams. Both Northwest Rankin and Brandon are expected to contend for the Class 6A championship this season, as is Warren Central.

“I think we’ll be fine. It was just one of those days at the yard where we didn’t play good defense,” Douglas said. “We have to keep it from snowballing and be able to flush it and move on to the next one.”

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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