Vikings smoke Gators in playoff tune-up

Published 9:12 am Friday, April 21, 2023

Warren Central and Vicksburg High have both spent the past two months grinding through a daily routine and several games a week.

Now they’ll see how they handle some down time.

Seth Sterling went 2-for-3 with four RBIs, and Charlie Appleton was 2-for-3 with two RBIs as Warren Central defeated Vicksburg 12-2 on Thursday.

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It was one of the final checkpoints for both teams before the playoffs begin. Warren Central (17-8) only has one more regular-season game, while Vicksburg (16-10) won’t play again until May 2. Both teams earned first-round byes in the Class 6A and 5A brackets, respectively, by winning their region titles.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword. You want your guys, your starters to stay in a groove and a rhythm. Don’t get me wrong. I’m tickled pink we’re district champs. But it’s kind of like, ‘Congratulations, now you get to sit around a while,’” Warren Central coach Randy Broome said. “I’m going to need their focus and attention the next week to stay in a rhythm and a gamelike tempo. End of the day, if we show up focused on baseball and what we’re trying to do, we’ll have a chance in every game we play.”

Warren Central will play at Ridgeland next Thursday, and like the game against Vicksburg it will serve primarily as a postseason tune-up.

The Vikings scored in five of the six innings played Thursday, including a big second inning that put them in firm control. Sterling and Appleton each hit RBI singles to help the Vikings take a 6-2 lead.

Kylan Landers doubled and scored three runs in the game, while Blake Channell also doubled and scored twice.

On the mound, Jack Wright grinded through four innings to get the win. He allowed two runs in the first inning, as well as three hits and five walks, and struck out five in his longest outing in nearly a month. He’d thrown a total of five innings in his last three pitching appearances, two of which were out of the bullpen.

Connor Watkins finished up with two scoreless innings of relief.

“My concern is getting Jack Wright back on the mound,” Broome said. “He grinded for us. He stayed in it and got out of some jams when we needed him to, but he’s way better than that performance tonight. To make a run and stay in some things, we’re going to need him on the mound.”

Broome’s Vikings got the victory — their 13th in a row over Vicksburg since 2013 — and he was a bit happier than his counterpart in the Vicksburg dugout.

Vicksburg had two hits in the first inning, including a two-run single by Kearris Gilliam that staked it to a 2-0 lead. Its only hit after that, however, was a leadoff single by Gilliam in the fourth inning.

“It got away from us at the start of the game,” Vicksburg coach Antonio Calvin said. “The guys came out flat. They came out scared. They’re (Warren Central) just another team. But there’s just something about a crosstown rivalry.”

The Gators won the Region 4-5A championship and earned a bye in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs. They won’t play again until May 2, when they face the winner of a first-round series between Lake Cormorant and West Point.

Thursday’s loss snapped a five-game winning streak and left Calvin frustrated at what he said is an uneven flow that has persisted all year.

“Our thing this year has been we don’t know who’s going to show up to the ballfield. We’ve been asking them, ‘Who’s going to show up today?’ As you can see, we beat ourselves tonight. They didn’t overpower us. They didn’t outpitch us. They didn’t outhit us. They didn’t do any of that. We beat ourselves tonight,” Calvin said. “We are a really good team when we show up. But when we don’t show up, when we come out flat, when we come out afraid, then this is what this looks like.”

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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