Warren Central beats Northwest Rankin to claim Region 6-6A baseball championship

Published 11:51 pm Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Blake Channell was 90 feet away from home plate when he saw the baseball heading toward the backstop and a wide open path to everything he and his Warren Central teammates have wanted all year long.

The senior broke down the third base line, slid headfirst across the plate, and was swarmed a moment later. Channell’s dash for home on a passed ball in the bottom of the seventh inning provided the winning run as Warren Central beat Northwest Rankin 2-1 on Wednesday.

The victory clinched Warren Central’s first region championship since 2016.

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“I saw it and didn’t know if it got past him. Then I saw the catcher sprung up so I just had to hope and pray it got far enough and I went. All I could think was, ‘This is really happening right now,’” Channell said. “It’s very exciting. Probably one of the highlights of my baseball career.”

Warren Central (15-7, 7-1 MHSAA Region 6-6A) won the season series vs. defending Class 6A champion Northwest Rankin (13-5, 6-2). Prior to this season, Northwest had beaten the Vikings in 10 of 11 meetings since 2016.

Going through a longtime nemesis and one of the best high school teams in Mississippi to end a seven-year region championship drought made it all the more rewarding.

“We haven’t won in a while. District champs is a big thing. It’s our senior year and we’ve got a chance to do it. I’m proud of all of us,” said senior pitcher Kylan Landers, who allowed one run in six innings. “Especially after they swept us last year, it was our turn to take over.”

WATCH: Warren Central’s Blake Channell scores the game-winning run:


Warren Central beat Northwest Rankin 6-1 at home on March 10, and lost 13-3 in Flowood last week. The winner-take-all rubber match at Viking Field was tense all the way through, as both sides missed several chances to potentially blow the game open.

Northwest Rankin had six hits, but its only run came in the third inning. Tucker Jones led off with a double and scored on a ground out by Trey Davidson. The Cougars stranded runners at third base in the fourth and sixth innings.

Warren Central, meanwhile, had runners on base in every inning but couldn’t push one across the plate until its final at-bat.

Charlie Appleton led off the bottom of the seventh with a single. Pinch-runner Ryan Nelson was bunted to second, and then got to third on a single by Channell.

After Channell stole second, Landers was intentionally walked to load the bases and set up a force play. Northwest appeared to get what it wanted with a slow ground ball up the middle. Second baseman Chase Peeples was force to try and tag Landers, however, and missed. Nelson scored the tying run as Warren Central’s dugout erupted.

“We’ve been in this situation this year a few times, on the winning end and on the losing end,” Warren Central coach Randy Broome said. “You look up and realize we’re in this and we’ve got a shot. Then a runner gets on and a runner gets bunted, and that’s that effect where confidence starts rising in one dugout and there’s a lack of words in the other. It was a playoff-type atmosphere tonight, and I think that’s where we said, ‘This is our chance and let’s go do it.’”

The very next pitch was the last one of the game. Gabe Hodges’ breaking ball was in the dirt and bounced under catcher Chase Brown. Channell hesitated for a split second before breaking for home, but scored without a play at the plate to give the Vikings the walk-off win and the Region 6-6A title.

“Blake must have saw it before I did,” said Broome, who was coaching third base. “I was saying ‘Right here, right here, right here.’ He got a late jump, but fortunately it worked out for us.”

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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