HED:Vikings set to invade Tupelo today for 5A state playoffs
By Gregg Ellis
Tupelo's prize for sweeping Starkville in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs is a date with 30-3 Warren Central.
The Golden Wave and Vikings are set to begin their best-of-three playoff series at 7 p.m. tonight at Tupelo High School Field.
"We feel it is a privilege to come and play Tupelo," Warren Central coach Sam Temple said. "We really respect what Tupelo has been able to accomplish over the years. We would like to establish here what Coach Harmon has there.
"Tupelo has a really good group of guys that play really hard. By far, this will be our biggest challenge of the year."
The Vikings advanced to the second round by knocking off Clinton in two games, including a 15-3 rout in Game 2 Saturday. In the regular season, the Golden Wave also topped the Arrows, 7-4 on both occasions.
"We now have to play with the same intensity we did in the first round," Harmon said. "Warren Central is solid from top to bottom."
Temple, who is in his third year at Warren Central, will send Shea Douglas to the mound tonight. The senior southpaw has posted a 10-1 record with an ERA of 1.12. In Game 2, Taylor Tankersley will get the call. Tankersley, a left-handed sophomore, is 11-1 and carries a .57 ERA.
"On any given day, our pitchers can dominate," Temple said. "Taylor has a great fastball, but his breaking ball and change-ups are just as effective."
Defensively, Temple describes his team as tough ball players that like to get dirty.
"We're very aggressive," he said. "We can turn the double play, or we can rely on the arm strength from our outfielders. We don't commit very many errors."
At the plate, the entire batting order is solid from top to bottom. All season long, Warren Central has consistently batted around the .370 mark. The Vikings have also shown muscle at the plate, hitting 21 home runs. Douglas leads the team with six, followed by Brian Pettway with five.
"One of the strengths of our team is that you can't pitch around anyone in the lineup," Temple said. "We expect our No. 9 batter to be as effective as our lead-off batter. Lately, we've been a little snake bitten at the plate. We've hit the ball hard, but right at folks."
Tupelo's Justin Bounds is slated to pitch tonight. Bounds is 7-1, with a 1.85 ERA.
"Tupelo has a lot of good pitchers," Temple said. "I just hope to produce enough runs to make us competitive."
If Game 3 is necessary, the series will conclude at Tupelo.