Admirals sink Vikings for sweep of MHSAA Class 6A playoff series

Published 9:18 pm Monday, May 8, 2023

GULFPORT — One big broadside from the Admirals sank the Vikings’ quest for a ‘ship.

Warren Central took an early lead on Gulfport in Game 2 of their MHSAA Class 6A playoff series on Monday, then gave up nine runs in a nightmarish second inning. A huge rally by the Vikings came up just short, and Gulfport won 10-9 to complete a rainy two-game sweep.

Gulfport (21-11) advanced to face Brandon in the third round. Warren Central (17-11) won the Region 6-6A championship — its first title since 2016 — but couldn’t get past its second-round stumbling block. The Vikings have only gotten to the third round once since 2005, and not since 2015.

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This trip to the playoffs took a full week to play out. Gulfport won 3-1 on May 2, but rain postponed Game 2 twice and it took six days for the teams to get back on the field.

Facing elimination, Warren Central got off to a great start. Pitcher Kylan Landers struck out the side in the first inning and Blake Channell hit a bases-clearing triple in the top of the second to stake the Vikings to a 3-0 lead.

Then, in the bottom of the second, things went sideways in a hurry. A walk, a hit batter and an error loaded the bases before a ground out brought in Gulfport’s first run.

The next three batters also reached base, including RBI singles by Nathaniel Edwards and Ethan Garner to tie it at 3. After Landers got the second out with a strikeout, Jacob Palazzo cleared the bases with a double to put the Admirals ahead 6-3.

Nico Williams hit another two-run double two batters later and then scored on a single by Dawson Hall. Garner singled in another run in the third inning to make it 10-3.

Warren Central did not fold, though. It rallied for six runs in the top of the fifth inning to get back to within a run. Seth Sterling hit an RBI single, Landers brought in two with another single, and runs also scored on a bases loaded walk and two wild pitches.

Gulfport pitcher Ethan Surowiec got Connor Watkins to fly out to deep left field to escape the jam, however, and struck out five of the last seven batters he faced to close out the game.

Surowiec pitched the last 2 1/3 innings scoreless to earn the save. Williams struck out nine batters in 4 2/3 innings and earned the win. He also went 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Palazzo had three RBIs for Gulfport, while Garner was 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

For Warren Central, Channell finished with four RBIs and Landers was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and one run scored. Charlie Appleton walked twice and scored two runs.

Watkins was 2-for-4 at the plate, and turned in a game-saving performance on the mound. After Landers couldn’t get out of the second inning, Watkins came on in relief and finished the game. He allowed two runs and struck out seven in 4 1/3 innings to hold the line and give the Vikings a chance to make their comeback.