Vikings grind out clutch region win against Neshoba Central

Published 9:28 am Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Cade Fairley walked to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, with thoughts of a game-winning hit in his head.

Then he got hit in his head and won the game.

Fairley was hit by a pitch on top of his helmet to force in the winning run that gave Warren Central a 3-2 victory over Neshoba Central in its MHSAA Region 2-6A baseball opener Tuesday night.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“Hey, it worked out. Anything for the team. He threw it and it worked out. That’s all I can say about it,” Fairley said.

Fairley’s walk-off plunking was the final step in an odd path to victory for the Vikings (6-7, 1-0 Region 2-6A). They only had four hits — Ryan Nelson had two of them, and scored a run — but maintained a steady flow of baserunners as Neshoba Central (11-5, 0-1) committed five errors and its pitchers hit three batters.

Warren Central’s batters struck out 13 times, though, and left nine runners on base. It hit into an inning-ending double play in the seventh inning and left the bases loaded twice.

“There’s three places in this game — pitching, offense and defense. Two of those of those we did very, very, very well. The third one, the offense, we had runners I think in every inning and scored twice,” Warren Central coach Randy Broome said. “For whatever reason that’s been our M.O. this year. We’ve done a great job of getting on base. We’ve done a very poor job of getting them in, and tonight was no different.”

The Vikings’ two runs both came in the third inning, when Maddox Lynch drove in one with a ground out and Fairley scored on an error. Neshoba Central’s R.B. Hardin hit an RBI double in the top of the fifth inning to tie it 2-2, and then the game settled into a tense pitchers’ duel.

Neshoba Central’s Ryder White allowed two unearned runs and had eight strikeouts in five innings, then Wilson Williams followed with five strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings.

Warren Central’s Conner Watkins turned in a phenomenal performance. He pitched all eight innings and only needed 101 pitches to do it. He allowed two runs on six hits and one walk, and struck out eight batters.

“He hit his spots all night,” Broome said.

Watkins’ pitching kept Warren Central in the game long enough for the offense to finally stitch together a rally in extra innings.

Cole Autrey started it with a one-out infield single. After a strikeout, Nelson delivered another single through the left side and Hayes Loper worked a walk to load the bases.

That brought up Fairley, the team leader in RBIs and the No. 3 batter in the lineup, with a chance to win it. Rather than doing damage with his bat, though, Fairley used his head. The first pitch Williams threw was a curveball that slipped out of his hand. Fairley ducked to protect himself as the ball glanced off the top of his batting helmet.

Pinch-runner J.R. Myers trotted home from third base, Fairley jogged down to first to make it official, and the Vikings all ran down the right field line to celebrate.

“It just slipped out of the hand and I ended up getting hit in the head with it,” Fairley said with a laugh. “Big district game, quality win, it feels amazing. When he hit me the only thing I felt was excited that we won.”
Warren Central and Neshoba Central will play again Friday at 7 p.m. at Neshoba.

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.

email author More by Ernest