Lack of timely hitting costly for Vikings

Published 10:27 pm Friday, March 2, 2018

FLOWOOD — The key stat for Warren Central on Friday wasn’t the number of runs it scored — a respectable five — but rather the number it didn’t.

The Vikings left 10 runners on base, seven of them in scoring position, and had another runner thrown out at the plate on a botched double steal attempt. The missed opportunities, along with a couple of fielding errors, led to a 7-5 loss to Faith Academy (Ala.) in the Mid-Mississippi Classic.

“We didn’t get the ball moving when we needed it. We had them there all night and had several baserunning errors that cost us two runs. And on top of that we made two critical defensive errors that cost us six runs,” Warren Central coach Conner Douglas said. “We can’t do that. We know better than that. We just have to learn from it. It’s early in the year. That’s why we play these games is to get prepared for the games that do start to count.”

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Warren Central (2-3) lost its second game in a row. It’ll wrap up its run in the Mid-Mississippi Classic Saturday at noon, when it plays Hillcrest (Ala.) at Pearl High School.

The Vikings have faced a difficult schedule thus far — their first five opponents have a combined record of 21-5 — but they’ve also hurt themselves on occasion. On Friday, it was a lack of timely hitting and five errors that did them.

In the second inning, Faith’s Parker Mills laid down a bunt with no outs and runners on first and second. Third baseman Shane Lewis fielded it clean, but made a wild throw that went all the way down the right field line. Both runners scored and, as Mills was advancing to third, another throw across the diamond by first baseman Sean Daily sailed high.

Mills scored to complete the Little League home run and put Faith ahead 3-1. Later in the inning, a dropped fly ball with two outs allowed another run to score.

Then, in the fifth inning, the Rams used two more errors, a wild pitch and an RBI double by Reece Ewing to score three times and push the lead to 7-1.

Meanwhile, at the plate, the Vikings were squandering opportunities to keep up. They had runners on in every inning, but stranded seven of them at second or third. In the fifth inning, they had runners at first and third with two outs and tried to steal a run by having trail runner P.J. Mims intentionally get into a rundown between first and second to give Hank Holdiness a chance to sprint home.

Mims did his part by drawing a throw, but Faith was able to throw out Holdiness on a close play at the plate to end the inning.

The Vikings finally rallied in the sixth and seventh innings, only to come up short again. Holdiness drove in two runs with a double in the sixth as WC scored three times to cut its deficit to 7-4.

Two infield singles and an RBI single by Landan Stewart in the top of the seventh made it 7-5, and put the go-ahead at the plate. Faith pitcher Jackson Bell struck out Wesley Ricks to end the game, however.

“I’m hoping that will give us a positive going into tomorrow and the rest of the year,” Douglas said of the Vikings’ late rally. “We finally started getting more aggressive and some life about us.”

Holdiness finished the game 2-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs for Warren Central. Starting pitcher Alan Kivett allowed seven runs — none of them earned — in five innings, and struck out four. Kivett also went 2-for-3 with two singles and two RBIs.

For Faith, Southern Miss signee Jake Shepard allowed one run on two hits in five solid innings. He struck out seven batters to help overcome five walks. Bell was 3-for-4 at the plate, with a double and a run scored.

“We’re throwing it really well. The pitchers are always ahead of hitters right now so we’re not in panic mode. But we’ve got to start doing better at the plate. We’re not being very aggressive, and we preach being aggressive at the plate. Hopefully it will come,” Douglas said. “Tip your hat. (Shepard) threw well. Our guys competed at the end. We just have to start doing it earlier in the game.”

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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