Warren Central beats Saltillo to clinch first trip to baseball semifinals since 2004

Published 11:44 pm Monday, May 6, 2024

A big fly and a big arm netted Warren Central its biggest baseball victory in 20 years.

Cole Autrey homered for the game’s only run, and Maddox Lynch pitched a three-hit shutout as Warren Central beat Saltillo 1-0 in Game 3 of their MHSAA second-round Class 6A playoff series on Monday.

Warren Central (17-11) advanced to the state semifinals for the first time since 2004, and will play Center Hill (21-10) in a best-of-three series for the Class 6A North State championship.

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Game 1 is at Center Hill on Friday, and Game 2 is at Warren Central on Saturday. Start times have not yet been set.

“Baseball is a funny game. We’ve had some good teams through the years, and district champs through the years that get bounced in the first round,” Warren Central coach Randy Broome said. “Once you get to the playoffs, you’re playing great teams. We’ve had some breaks not go our way in years past. We’ve been really, really close before and just couldn’t get over the hump. Tonight was our night.”

Warren Central rallied to win the series against Saltillo (19-14) after losing Game 1 at home. It won 9-2 in Game 2 on Saturday, and then the series with a Game 3 thriller.

Each team only had three hits as Lynch and Saltillo’s Will Lipscomb matched each other nearly pitch for pitch. The only real mistake by either one was the one Autrey hammered in the third inning.

Autrey turned on an inside fastball and the ball carried over the right field fence to give the Vikings a 1-0 lead.
Lipscomb allowed three hits and four walks, and had five strikeouts in six innings.

“I had a 3-1 count on me and I saw a lot of change-ups and curveballs. That’s what I’ve been seeing all year. He busted me in with a fastball and obviously I did what I needed to with it,” Autrey said. “It was a great feeling. I knew it. I didn’t feel it. Usually when I don’t feel it, then I watch it.”

With the way Lynch was pitching, the game didn’t seem in much doubt once he had even the slimmest of leads.
The junior right-hander only needed 72 pitches — 53 of which were strikes — to throw his seven-inning complete-game gem. Lynch scattered three singles, did not walk a batter, and struck out eight.

“Everything was there tonight. It was all working,” Lynch said. “Whenever Cole hit the home run, I knew it was over. We were playing good and I knew my teammates were going to make all the plays behind me.”

Broome, who has been associated with Warren Central’s baseball program in various roles for about 25 years, didn’t hold back in evaluating Lynch’s performance.

“Probably one of the best I’ve ever seen in my whole career as a player and as a coach,” Broome said. “We’ve had some good ones come through here. That’s incredible, especially with a pitch count for seven innings below 70, you don’t hear of that much.”

Lynch finished his masterpiece with back-to-back strikeouts. After he got Jacob Gore to swing and miss at the final pitch, he yelled, threw his glove in the air and was mobbed by his teammates.

It was not only a release of tension at the end of a nailbiter, but at the end of 20 years of playoff frustration. During their two-decade playoff slump the Vikings have won region championships, even won some series, but hadn’t been able to break through to the deepest parts of the postseason — until now.

“It’s definitely a monkey off the chest, because of the work we’ve put in as a team. We’ve had really good teams through those years that a break here or a break there, or whatever, this would have been something that happened a long time ago,” Broome said. “I didn’t realize it was 20 years until we started looking at some things. At this point, you’ve got to have some things go your way. The boys showed up today with that look.”

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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