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Errors cost Wayne County first-round loss to Oak Grove

By By Stan Caldwell / Special to The Star
April 19, 2002
HATTIESBURG When the high school baseball season reaches the playoffs, the margin for error becomes awfully slim.
The Wayne County War Eagles found that out the hard way Thursday night against Oak Grove in the opening game of the first round of the Class 5A South Mississippi playoffs at Oak Grove's Clinton Field.
The War Eagles committed two costly errors that proved to be the difference in a 4-2 defeat that left them on the brink of elimination. The second game of the best-of-three series will be tonight at Waynesboro at 7 p.m.
The loss dropped Wayne County to 16-9; third-ranked Oak Grove improved to 22-4. The defeat squandered a solid pitching performance by Michael Palmer (2-3), who went the distance, holding the Warriors to just four hits and striking out six.
Indeed, the War Eagles appeared unimpressed by Oak Grove's six state championships, and served notice from the start that they were ready to finally beat the Warriors. Oak Grove took a pair of one-run victories in the regular season.
WCHS took advantage of some early wildness by Oak Grove pitcher Chris Larson, who walked three batters and threw two wild pitches in the first inning. Latrell Gray, running for Palmer, scooted home on Larson's first wild pitch for a 1-0 lead. The War Eagles had runners at second and third, but could do no more damage.
Oak Grove came right back in the bottom of the first, taking advantage of an error. Mark Griffin led off by reaching on an error at first base. He took second on a walk, reached third on a ground ball to second and scored on a single by Drew Robinson.
The Warriors grabbed the lead in the bottom of the third, thanks to another error. Hunter Beasley led off with a single, took second on a hit-and-run grounder to first and scored on an error at shortstop on a hard-hit ball by Marc Maddox.
It looked for awhile like that might be the final, as Larson and Palmer both got in a good pitching groove. Larson (6-2) also went the distance, giving up just four hits himself and striking out five.
The War Eagles tied it up in the top of the fifth, thanks to some sloppy defense on Oak Grove' part. With one out, Gordon Baygents was hit by a pitch. Pinch-runner Scoot Saul was picked off first base, but an error on the play allowed him to reach second. A single by Palmer got Saul to third, and he scored on another Warrior error.
But in the bottom of the fifth, with one out, Palmer missed with a 2-1 fastball to Oak Grove's Bailey Hartel, who sent the ball over the right field fence for a solo home run. Three walks loaded the bases, and Martin Roark got Maddox home with a sacrifice fly to deep right field.
Wayne County made a little noise in the seventh, but failed to score. Saul reached on an error at shortstop, but he was wiped out by a double play. That play proved damaging, because Palmer followed with a double and Akeem Lofton reached on an error at third base.
But Jonathan Sellers flied out to left field for the final out of the game.
Fortunately, the War Eagles don't have much time to dwell on the loss, with the new Thursday-Friday-Saturday format for the first round of the playoffs.