Clinton takes round one from Vikings

Published 6:27 pm Wednesday, March 27, 2019

By Brandon Shields
For The Vicksburg Post

Every time Clinton and Warren Central play, it’s always an intense matchup. Tuesday was no different.

Dillon Spears reached on an error and scored the go-ahead run on a fielder’s choice in the top of the eighth inning, and then Clinton held on to beat the Vikings 5-4 in the first game of a pivotal series in Region 4-6A.

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Clinton (9-5, 5-0 Region 4-6A) got a leg up in the three-game season series, and can clinch the region title by beating Warren Central (15-5, 5-1) Friday night in Clinton. If Warren Central wins, their third meeting on April 12 at Viking Field will be for the title and a first-round bye in the Class 6A playoffs.

Both teams have already clinched playoff berths after beating Greenville and Provine twice each. Three teams from each region make the playoffs.

Clinton has won six of its last seven games against Warren Central, and five of the last eight games between them have been decided by one or two runs. Warren Central had a seven-game overall winning streak snapped.

“It is always fun and exciting when us and Clinton play each other and tonight was no different,” said Warren Central assistant coach Randy Broome.

Broome was serving as the Vikings’ head coach on Tuesday in place of Conner Douglas. Douglas was ejected for arguing a call in Monday’s 13-2 victory over Vicksburg High, and the ejection carries an automatic one-game suspension. Douglas will be back in the dugout for Friday’s game.

“For us, defensively tonight we weren’t very good,” Broome added. “When you make errors good teams will find a way to make you pay and that’s what happened tonight.”

Early in the game when one team scored the other would answer.
Warren Central jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning, highlighted by RBI singles by Wesley Ricks and Vantrel Reed. The Vikings scored the other run on a wild pitch.

Clinton answered right back in the top of the fourth with three runs on a solo home run by Jalen Cowan and an RBI double by Grant Holmes. Holmes then scored on a wild pitch to tie the game.

“That was a really big inning because we were able to barrel some balls up and get big hits,” Clinton coach Trave Hopkins said. “These kids are gutsy and never quit and I’m proud of how they pulled this one out.”

With the game tied 3-3 in the top of the fifth, Clinton took the lead on a Warren Central throwing error.

Warren Central tied it again with one out in the bottom of the seventh on a double by Ricks. The Vikings had the bases loaded with two outs after two intentional walks, but Shane Lewis grounded out to second to prevent the walk-off.

Lewis had four RBIs Monday against Vicksburg, but went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts against Clinton.

“We had the right guy in the right place and opportunity and it just didn’t work out for us,” Broome said. “Pitchers did really well. We’ve just got to bounce back and get ready for Friday.”

To start the eighth inning, Spears reached on an error and got to third base following a walk and a single by Jake Hutchins. Christian Johnson followed with a ground ball to third that hung up one runner between second and third while Spears scored the go-ahead run to put the Arrows ahead 5-4.

“Christian is battling a knee injury so we talked before the game he might have a Kirk Gibson moment and he did,” Hopkins said. “We’ve got to get back to work and get ready for them on Friday because it’ll be just like this one tonight.”

Morgan Sturgis (3-0) got the win on the mound for Clinton in relief. He pitched 3 1/3 innings, allowed one run and three hits while striking out three.

Cowan and Dez Baker had two hits each to lead the Arrows’ offense, and Holmes was 2-for-3 with two RBIs.

Caleb Sterling (1-2) took the loss on the mound for Warren Central in relief. Ricks and Reed had two hits each to lead the Vikings’ offense.

Sterling was the third of three pitchers used by the Vikings. Reed started and worked four innings, and Clayton Thurman allowed one run in three innings of relief. Reed had nine strikeouts and Thurman had five.