Warren Central rushes past Vicksburg

Published 5:02 pm Tuesday, March 27, 2018

After they turned a double play to end the fourth inning Monday, the Vicksburg Gators smiled and slapped hands with each other. Two of them leapt high in the air for a celebratory hip bump.

By the time the fifth inning ended 45 minutes later, it all seemed like a surreal memory.
Warren Central scored eight runs in the bottom of the fifth — on only one hit — and added two more in the sixth to earn a 10-0 run-rule victory over the Gators on Monday.

It was Warren Central’s 10th consecutive victory over their crosstown rival, a streak that dates to 2013.

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“I’m just happy the guys kept swinging and competing,” Warren Central coach Conner Douglas said. “That’s all you can do. That wind’s blowing 15 mph in, and any other night we’d probably have four or five home runs and two or three doubles. It’s just baseball. You can’t fight the elements. If you just keep swinging it, good things will happen.”

The game was scoreless through four innings, and then Vicksburg fell victim to a defensive and pitching meltdown. It committed two errors, and cycled through four pitchers who issued eight walks and hit a batter. At one point, the Gators walked six out of eight batters.

Warren Central’s only hit was an RBI double by Sean Daily that made it 2-0. The bottom of the fifth inning lasted nearly 40 minutes.

“My starting pitcher (Alfred Barnes) threw a little bit on Saturday and he ran out of gas. That’s probably the deepest he’s thrown all year. Then the next guy we brought in was off. I knew coming in we were going to be short on pitching with a district game tomorrow, and we just couldn’t throw strikes,” Vicksburg coach Derrick DeWald said. “We have pitchers that can throw strikes, and when they do we’re competitive. When they lose it, we just fall off the tracks.”

Vicksburg’s struggles in the fifth inning were compounded by Warren Central pitcher Vantrel Reed being on point all night. His fastball touched 92 mph, and the Gators could barely touch it all night.

Reed finished with 10 strikeouts and took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. It was broken up by Barnes’ single.

Reed said the long fifth inning took him out of his groove a bit.

“I was trying to strike them out, but I was over here for so long I just couldn’t pitch right,” said Reed, who also went 2-for-2 with a double and a walk.

Douglas said he sent Reed back out for the sixth to give him a chance at a no-hitter.

“I wanted to pull him after four, but you look up there on the scoreboard and you’re like, ‘I can’t do it.’ The baseball gods would be mad at you,” Douglas said with a laugh. “And Van has a rubber arm. He wanted the ball. But when they got that hit it was time to go, because we need him at shortstop tomorrow.”

Although the game got out of hand, DeWald tried to keep a positive outlook by focusing on the first half of the game. The Gators turned two double plays, and the starting pitcher Barnes didn’t allow a run through four innings. He was charged with five runs in the fifth, but none of them were earned.

It was necessary for the Gators to quickly flush the negative, too. They have a home-and-home division series this week with Callaway — Tuesday in Jackson and Thursday at Bazinsky Field — that they need to sweep to keep their playoff hopes alive.

“I think we’re starting to find the pieces of the puzzle. We’ve got a chance to make the playoffs. We’ve got to start (Tuesday) at Callaway. We’ve got three weeks to figure it out. Anything is possible,” DeWald said. “At the end of the day, I’m going to take this as a moral victory for us. We played really well and we’ve got to continue trying to play better. We know we’re knocking on the door. We played well for 4 ½. If we put that together for seven, we’re going to be OK.”

Warren Central also had a key division game Tuesday at Clinton. The two teams are the class of Division 4-6A, and their three-game season series will almost certainly decide the championship and which team gets a first-round bye in the Class 6A playoffs. They’ll play again April 10 and 13.

“This is a momentum builder after Saturday (a 15-5 loss to Brandon). It’s good to bounce back. We had a good stretch there, and we needed a game to get back on our feet and get some confidence going in,” Douglas said. “We get the mojo going no matter what with Clinton.”

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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