Vikings rout Saltillo to stay alive, force Game 3 Monday night

Published 10:03 pm Saturday, May 4, 2024

To keep its baseball season alive, Warren Central needed to do what was done to it — and it did.

Brooks Willoughby allowed one unearned run in 5 1/3 innings, Cade Fairley and and Maddox Lynch both homered, and the Vikings hammered Saltillo 9-2 on Saturday to even their MHSAA Class 6A playoff series at a game apiece.

Each team has won on the road — Saltillo took Game 1 on Thursday, 7-3 — and now Warren Central (16-11) will need to break that pattern to advance to the state semifinals for the first time since 2004.

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Game 3 of the series is Monday at 7 p.m. at Warren Central’s Viking Field. The winner will move on to face Center Hill or Grenada for the Class 6A North State championship. Those teams have also split the first two games of their second-round series and will also play Game 3 on Monday night.

After its hiccup in the opener against Saltillo (19-13), Warren Central got back to doing the things that led to an eight-game winning streak.

Lynch hit an RBI single and scored on an error for a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning, and then the Vikings tacked on four more runs in the second to blow it open in a hurry.

Conner Watkins hit an RBI single in the second inning, then Lynch followed with a two-run home run three pitches later.

Fairley belted a solo homer in the fifth inning, and Ryan Nelson’s two-run double in the sixth gave the Vikings a 9-1 lead.

The first four batters in Warren Central’s lineup — Nelson, Watkins, Lynch and Fairley — were a combined 6-for-14 with two home runs, seven RBIs, and seven runs scored.

Nelson finished 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs, while Lynch was 2-for-4 with four RBIs. Each player scored twice.

Willoughby was outstanding on the mound as well. The Southern Miss signee started and pitched into the sixth inning, allowing only one hit, two walks and one unearned run. He had seven strikeouts.

Ryan Steed pitched the last 1 2/3 innings and had one strikeout.