Nelson providing a spark at top of Vikings’ lineup

Published 4:00 am Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Two weeks into the season, Ryan Nelson’s batting average was sitting at a measly .158. It didn’t seem ideal for a leadoff hitter, but when his coach started thinking about moving him down in the lineup he noticed something.

“Batting average can lie to you, and in Ryan’s case early in the year it was a lie. You looked up and he was on base two, three, four times,” Warren Central coach Randy Broome said.

Nelson eventually pulled out of his slump with a seven-game hitting streak and has become the truth as a leadoff man. The Warren Central second baseman has reached base in all 30 games this season, scored a run in 23 of them, and been a sparkplug on offense during the Vikings’ drive to the MHSAA Class 6A championship series.

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Warren Central (19-11) will face George County (29-4) in a best-of-three series beginning Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Trustmark Park in Pearl.

“Just get on base any way I can to help the team out, if it’s a bunt, a base hit, a walk, getting hit by a pitch. If I don’t get on base at least have a QAB (quality at-bat),” Nelson said in describing his role in the lineup.

Nelson has done all of those things exceptionally well for the Vikings. His on-base percentage of .508 ranks second on the team, and once he’s on base he’s been able to put himself into scoring position. He leads the team with 25 stolen bases and 39 runs scored.

“It wasn’t long after we got cranked up that he was consistently getting on base, and there’s a lot more to getting on base than a batting average. If you look at our quality at-bat charts, he probably leads the team in hit by pitches. He works a lot of counts and draws walks. Just doing everything your leadoff guy needs to do,” Broome said. “Pretty much all year he’s been out there to drive in.”

It’s a huge reversal from last season, when Nelson was a role player. He only had 31 at-bats in 21 games and batted .129. Broome said a good attitude and a lot of hard work during the offseason turned his fortunes around.

Nelson signed with East Central Community College in November and then embarked on a breakout season this spring.

In addition to his on-base percentage and run production, he’s batting .310 with seven doubles and 11 RBIs.
“He’s definitely a high-energy guy,” Broome said. “He never really broke into things as a junior. He went into the summer ready to work. He could have easily pouted or got a bad attitude, and maybe even looked to go somewhere else. But he put his nose down and he went to work, and had a heck of an offseason and a heck of a summer.”

Although he’s batting .333 in the playoffs, and has scored a run in six of the Vikings’ seven games, Nelson said he feels like he’s in a slump. He’s only had one hit in the past three games. He’s looking to break out again at Trustmark Park.

“I’ve got to get back to being consistent. Last series wasn’t really my time at the plate,” Nelson said. “But I did what I could to help the team win. I’ve got to get back consistent, get back to on green.”

If he does, the Vikings might be ready to lift a state championship trophy for the first time since 2001.

“In the summer, some of us players were talking about, ‘This is the team that can do it,’” Nelson said. “Well, we put the strings together and we’re doing it right now. That’s just a blessing.”

MHSAA 6A championship
At Trustmark Park, Pearl
Game 1 – May 22, 4 p.m.
Game 2 – May 24, 4 p.m.
Game 3 – May 25, TBA
• Tickets are $15 per day and are available through
For the full MHSAA championship week schedule, click here

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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