Showdown with Clinton looms as Warren Central starts run toward playoffs

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Warren Central’s baseball team took it easy last week.

Following a difficult and frequent stretch of games, coach Conner Douglas gave his players a couple of days off from practice and went light on them when they did get on the field.

That’s over now. It’s time to get back to work.

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The Vikings begin their run-up to the Class 6A playoffs with another tough week. They’ll host Clinton on Friday in a showdown for the Region 4-6A championship, then conclude the regular season on Saturday with a road game at Oak Grove.

Both opponents — as well as Madison Central, who the Vikings played last weekend — are playoff-caliber foes that should put them in a postseason state of mind.

“We schedule games like that to get into playoff mode. We’ll play quality opponents throughout the rest of the year,” Douglas said after the Vikings (17-7, 7-1 Region 4-6A) beat region rival Greenville 14-1 last Friday. “We’ve given them some time off this past week. We’ve been really tired. Bodies are tired, legs are tired, arms have gotten tired, so we gave them a week off for this very reason. Starting tomorrow it’s going to be a grind of we’ve got to rebound and have all our arms throwing their best.”

The biggest game of the week — and the season — is the one at home on Friday night against Clinton (11-7, 6-1). The teams split the first two meetings of the season, making this one a winner-take-all showdown for the Region 4-6A championship.

That honor, though, might be the smallest of the rewards available to the victor.

The winner also gets a first-round bye in the playoffs and a slightly easier path through the brutal Class 6A North bracket.

“It’s big for us because of the rest that you get. You don’t have to tax your arms like some people,” Douglas said. “The biggest thing with that bye is we also get on the side of the bracket we want to be on as far as travel and everything else. Hopefully we come and play the game, play it right, and come out on top.”

The Region 4-6A champion will match up with either Northwest Rankin (20-4) or Southaven (5-13) and gets to skip another difficult first-round series.

The second-place team must face Oxford (13-8), Tupelo (14-5) or South Panola (18-4) in the first round, and then defending state champion Desoto Central (21-2) in the second.

“The way it’s set up, if we’re a two we’re playing a very good team in the opening round. We don’t just get an easy first-round team. It’s going to be a dogfight in that 6A bracket where we’re set up if we’re a two, so we’re really fighting hard for that one-seed,” Douglas said. “It’s a grind in 6A no matter where you fall. There’s not many easy first-round games.”

Nor any easy ones between now and then, which is why Douglas is hopeful last week’s rest paid off.

The Vikings had lost three of four before pummeling Greenville. They then were tied 5-5 with Madison Central (13-6) on Saturday when the game was rained out in the top of the fifth inning.

The Vikings have scored at least eight runs in 16 of their 17 victories this season, and have a solid and deep pitching staff to go with the productive offense. The playoffs can be a bit of a crapshoot once teams are evenly matched, but Douglas likes how his squad stacks up against the rest of the field.

“I think we’re as good as anybody when we play the game of baseball,” he said. “We’re talented and we’re deep. We’ve got 12 or 13 guys we can count on right now. We’ve got two or three that are not healthy that we need to get back, but I like our chances with anybody right now. Six-A is brutal. Anybody can beat anybody, but we can hang in there with any of them.”

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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