On the brink: Tigers’ season hangs on tonight’s Game 3

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By David Wheeler

Special to the Journal

SALTILLO – The Vicksburg Gators scored too early and too often.

That means that retiring Saltillo head coach Johnny Bolen, who won his 700th career game Thursday, will need his Tigers to win on the road to get one more home game.

The visiting Gators grabbed the early lead, then held off the Tigers for an 8-7 victory Friday in Game 2 of their Class 5A play-in series. The deciding Game 3 will be in Vicksburg at 2 p.m. today.

“If we’d played like yesterday, it would have been a different story today,” said Bolen, whose team did not return to Saltillo from its 10-3 Game 1 win Thursday until after midnight. “Give Vicksburg credit, they played well today.”

Vicksburg (12-16) certainly played well in the first two innings, grabbing a 6-3 lead.

In the first inning, a walk and an error set up a two-run hit by Michael Rohrer for the Gators. And in the second, the first five Gators reached base, including a two-run single by Josh Daffron.

Meanwhile, Saltillo (14-15) was denting the scoreboard, beginning with Tory Gifford’s two-run double in the first. And in the second, A. J. Rye had an RBI hit.

Insurance runs

Vicksburg tacked on insurance runs, beginning in the fourth on a sacrifice fly. Then in the fifth, Tyler Smith had an RBI hit.

Smith also had an over-the-shoulder catch in deep centerfield in the third that kept the Tigers from getting momentum.

“The first two innings we jumped on them for six runs, and that was big especially after yesterday,” Vicksburg head coach Ryan Gray said. “Getting some confidence was key.”

Saltillo tried to crawl back, with a rundown allowing a solo run to score in the fourth. In the fifth, two hits helped the Tigers push across three runs, but they left runners at second and third.

Saltillo also left a runner at third in the sixth, and had a runner on second in the seventh.

“We just couldn’t score enough today,” Bolen said. “We win tomorrow, we get another home game.”