Vikings’ backs against the wall after Game 1 loss in Class 6A championship series

Published 9:08 pm Wednesday, May 22, 2024

PEARL — A tight game. A close loss. Having to come from behind in a playoff series.

Warren Central has been through it all before, but they’re still not obstacles the Vikings wanted to have to overcome at this stage of the postseason.

George County’s Jacob Eubanks hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth inning, and the Rebels hung on to beat Warren Central 3-2 in Game 1 of the MHSAA Class 6A baseball championship series on Wednesday.

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Game 2 of the best-of-three series is Friday at 4 p.m. at Trustmark Park in Pearl. If Warren Central (19-12) wins, it will force a winner-take-all Game 3 on Saturday.

George County (29-5) would win its first state championship since 1997 with another victory. Warren Central is chasing its first title since 2001.

“Forget about it, at the end of the day. As soon as you can,” Warren Central coach Randy Broome said. “We’ll go over some things, some boo-boos we made today, hopefully get that fixed and get back to clicking on all cylinders on Friday. That’s all you can do.”

Game 1 was a tense pitchers’ duel between Warren Central’s Conner Watkins and George County’s Preston McAdory.

Watkins, a Copiah-Lincoln Community College signee, allowed six hits but no walks, and struck out three batters in six innings. McAdory also threw six innings and allowed five hits and four walks while striking out five.

Both pitchers allowed two runs in the fourth inning, and then George County manufactured the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth.

Cayler Havard led off with a single, and pinch-runner Brodie Cecchi advanced to third on a ground out and a a wild pitch. Eubanks followed with a fly ball to center field that was caught by Hayes Loper, but was plenty deep enough to score the go-ahead run.

George County reliever Canyon Reeves retired the side in order in the seventh for his seventh save in 24 relief appearances this season.

“The top of our lineup didn’t hit real well today. But we did what we did with the small ball game — putting the ball on the ground, bunting, causing pressure, causing chaos. Those are the things that have got us here,” George County coach Brandon Davis said.

Warren Central had five walk-off losses during the regular season. This one didn’t quite fall into that category, but was no less disappointing.

The Vikings had three runners thrown out on the basepaths and had a 2-0 lead quickly disappear.

Loper hit an RBI single and scored on Trace Hood’s single in the top of the fourth inning. George County tied it in the bottom half when Blane Green hit a two-run single.

“The basreunning mistakes could have killed us. I don’t know, off the top of my head, what we did behind it offensively,” Broome said. “But in a game like this, especially a close game, it’s hard enough to get runners on. You can’t shoot yourself in the foot when you do.”

Although they’re down, the Vikings were feeling far from out. They’ve still got two aces up their sleeve — namely, ace pitchers Brooks Willoughby and Maddox Lynch, who have each thrown a shutout during the team’s playoff run.

Willoughby, a Southern Miss signee, will get the ball for Game 2 on Friday. Lynch will start Game 3 if they can get there.
It’s the same path the Vikings traveled to win their second-round series against Saltillo, when they swept the last two games after dropping the first. They’re ready to retrace their steps.

“Nothing’s hurt. Worst-case scenario, we burned two or three arms tonight. We only burned one. In a three-game series, we’re fine,” Broome said. “We’ve been there once before. I think two of their series went to three games, so they may have the edge on that. But that’s one of the great things about baseball. We get to go to bed tonight, get a little BP in, talk about some things we boo-booed on today, and get ready for Game 2 on Friday.”

MHSAA Class 6A championship series
At Trustmark Park, Pearl; best-of-three
• Game 1 – George County 3, Warren Central 2
• Game 2 – Friday, May 24, 4 p.m.
• Game 3 – Saturday, May 25, TBA (if necessary)
• Tickets are $15 per day and are available through Tickets are good for all games for the day purchased.
Photo Gallery: Warren Central vs. George County, Game 1

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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