2004 Picayune Maroon Tide Baseball

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South State Playoffs  Round 2  Picayune vs Warren Central

One for The Ages; Vikings Outlast the Tide 13-12    by Carey Meitzler 

       The Picayune Maroon Tide’s quest for a fourth consecutive South State appearance came to a halt as Warren Central outlasted the Tide in a thrilling 13-12 Class 5A playoff game at Viking Field in Vicksburg.  The game was indicative of the entire series played between these two teams this week.  For the series, each team scored 23 runs and keep the fans in attendance on the edge of their seat as the outcome of each game was not decided until the last out.

       Picayune (20-11) jumped out to a 1-0 lead when J.P. Moreaux tripled with two out and scored on Heath Stevens single in the top of the first inning.

      The lead was short-lived as the Vikings scored five runs on Tide starter Kelly Ray. The big blow was a 3-run home run by catcher John Rice Pettway. Heath Stevens relieved Ray, induced a ground out for the first out and struck out the next two batters to get out of the inning with the Tide trailing 5-1.

J.P. Moreaux slides safely into third in the 1st inning.

Stevens followed Moreaux's triple with an RBI single to centerfield to put the Tide up 1-0.

       Picayune came back with two runs in the top of the 2nd inning, Ray walked and Alex Riser singled. Tyler Lee moved the runners up one base with a sacrifice bunt. Britton Fortenberry grounded out to the second baseman with Ray scoring on the play. Dustin Thibodeaux doubled to drive in courtesy runner Sean Garrard (running for Riser) to cut the lead to 5-3.

Dustin Thibodeaux launches a double in the 2nd inning.     

Heath Stevens drives a double to left field in the 3rd inning.

Kelly Ray drove home Stevens with an RBI single up the middle.

      The Tide made it 5-4 in the third. Heath Stevens doubled to the left field corner, moved to third on Moreaux’s sacrifice fly and scored on a single by Kelly Ray. Warren Central scored a run in the bottom of the 3rd inning when Mark Different singled and scored on Pettway’s single to make it 6-4.

      With two outs and nobody on base in the Tide 4th inning, Thibodeaux walked and stole second base. Chris Stewart reached on an infield single with Thibodeaux moving to third base on the play. Moreaux then drilled a two-run double scoring both Thibodeaux and Stewart. With first base open, Heath Stevens was issued an intentional walk and Garrard came on to run as the courtesy runner. Hoyt Hughes singled to score Moreaux. On the play, Garrard got caught in a run down between third and home and scored as the third baseman threw the ball away as Garrard slide into home and gave the Tide a 8-6 lead.

Chris Stewart scores as Hughes, Thibodeaux, and Stevens all give him the "stay up" sign.


Moreaux's 4th inning double is launched and Sean Garrard (14) scores as Ray looks on.

        The Vikings scored in the bottom of the inning as Jake Turner singled, move to second on a sacrifice bunt, and scored on Nick Carson’s single to make it 8-7 after four innings.

        Yogi Berra once said "It was like deja vu all over again" and as the Tide went to work with two outs and no one aboard in the top of the 5th inning, that statement echoed through minds of the Maroon Tide fans as the Tide rallied again. Fortenberry and Thibodeaux singled and both scored on Chris Stewart’s single to centerfield. Stewart raced to second on the throw to the plate. Moreaux singled to plate Stewart. But, on the next pitch Moreaux was gunned down attempting to steal with Heath Stevens standing in the batters box. The rally was over and the Tide led 11-7 as Warren Central came to bat.

Members of the Maroon Tide Nation look on as the Tide battles back in the 4th inning.

        John Rice Pettway led off with a single and Zach Balthrop walked. Pinch-hitter Ben Koestler then homered to left field just barely over the out-stretched arms of leftfielder Hoyt Hughes who made a dire attempt to leap and make the catch as the ball drop over the fence and brought the Vikings to within 11-10. With a 3-0 count on next batter Jake Turner, an exhausted Stevens, who saved game 2 for the Tide on Tuesday after throwing a complete game on Monday, was replaced on the mound by Chris Stewart. 

Heath Stevens gave all that he had left for the Tide in Game 3.

        Stewart, who had pitched six innings just two days earlier, walked Turner who would move to second when Stewart threw to second on Drew Warnock’s bunt back to Stewart.  The throw pulled Stevens off the bag. Stevens, after retrieving the throw, appeared to touch the bag with his feet in time for the out, but Turner was ruled safe putting runners on first and second. Carson laid down the sacrifice bunt moving the runners up one base. Alan Carlisle’s single scored Turner to tie the game at 11-11.  Mark Different then hit a pop fly to Thibodeaux at second base. Thibodeaux dropped the ball intentionally and hoping to get a double play, flipped to Stevens at second base, who threw wildly to first base allowing Warnock to score the go-ahead run from third. 

         The umpire had ruled the batter out and allowed Carlisle to advance to second base.  After numerous discussions and an appeal to third base citing that Warnock had failed to tag up on the play, the dust settled with Carlisle at second base and Warren Central leading by a score of 12-11. After intentional walks to designated hitter Vaughn Mims and Pettway, Stewart struck out Balthrop for the third out.

         The Tide got two runners on in the top of the 6th inning, but could not score. Warren Central scored what proved to be the margin of victory in the bottom of the inning. Ryan Grey doubled, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a sacrifice fly from Warnock for a 13-11 lead.

Warren Central made some outstanding plays in the field.  Above, Eric Douglas snags Tyler Lee's liner in the Tide 4th inning.

         The Tide would not go down easy in the seventh. Fortenberry was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Thibodeaux flied out to centerfield for the first out. Chris Stewart then banged a single to left scoring Fortenberry and moved to second on the throw to the plate.  Stewart moved to third on Moreaux’s ground out. Stevens was issued an intentional walk to put runners at first and third.  Hoyt Hughes then hit a liner up the middle that was caught by second baseman Carlisle as he jumped and laid out to prevent the potential tying run from scoring from third.

        The game marks the end of the tenure of Head Coach Kent Kirkland who announced earlier this year that this season, his 13th at the helm of the Maroon Tide, would be his last.

         It also marks the end of the careers of the Tide’s four seniors who lead the Tide to another outstanding season. Kelly Ray, Dustin Thibodeaux, J.P. Moreaux, and Chris Stewart will be missed, and like Kirkland, not forgotten.  

         Moreaux, who finished the series with 6 hits in 12 at bats, led the Tide with a single, a double, a triple, scored two runs, and drove in three runs in Game 3.  Stewart had three singles in the game, drove in two runs, and scored two runs. He pitched the final two innings with the heart of the champion that he has always exhibited.  Thibodeaux had a single, a double, drove in a run, score two runs, and stole two bases.  Ray had a single, drove in a run, and made some fine plays in the outfield.  

        The win will send the Vikings (22-10) to the South State final round to take on the Oak Grove Warriors. Game 1 will be played at Warren Central on Saturday.

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