Hattiesburg outguns Knights

By By Rocky Higginbotham/The Meridian Star
April 15, 2001
The 2001 baseball season was supposed to be a memorable one for the Hattiesburg Tigers, a Class 5A squad loaded with eight Division I baseball recruits.
And if the Tigers perform the way they did Saturday, Hattiesburg still may have the last laugh when this season is complete.
Tenth-ranked Hattiesburg, which struggled a bit early in the season, got a solid all-around effort Saturday as the Tigers pasted No. 3 ranked West Lauderdale 13-1 in a clash of prep powerhouses.
West, which had beaten the Tigers in the Hattiesburg Tournament last month, lost its second game this week and fell to 27-3 overall. Hattiesburg is now 24-6.
Both teams are getting ready to host first-round MHSAA playoff series Thursday. West Lauderdale entertains Purvis in Class 3A action, while Hattiesburg opens the 5A playoffs at home against Northwest Rankin.
In Saturday's contest, Hattiesburg scored in every inning but the first, and gave more than enough support for starting pitcher Adrian Hibbler.
Hibbler ran his mark to 3-1 by tossing a one-hitter. He gave up four walks and suffered through a 28-pitch second inning, but settled down to retire 10 of the final 11 batters he faced.
Offensively, Hattiesburg got a 3-for-3 day from Connor Bills, who scored three times and knocked in a couple of runs. Ole Miss signee Josh Grant was 2-for-3 with three runs scored and Tennessee signee Chris Heath added a two-run homer.
The Tigers got all the runs they needed in the top of the second of West starter Ryan Clay (6-2).
Bills' two-out, RBI single gave Hattiesburg its first run, then Rodney Hayes followed with a two-run triple and came home himself when the throw back to the infield got away for a 4-0 lead.
West Lauderdale had an opportunity to get back in it in its half of the second, as Trent Posey and Brad McKee drew back-to-back walks to start the inning.
But Hibbler induced a double play three pitches later, and the Knights got their only run when Posey scored on Clay's two-out single.
The second of four uncharacteristic West errors helped make it 5-1 in the top of the third, and Heath launched a two-run shot again with two men out to make it 7-1.
The Tigers wrapped things up with four runs in the fifth on just three hits, taking advantage of four walks and another error by the Knights.
Rocky Higginbotham is the sports editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at rhigginbotham@themeridianstar.com.

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