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Meridian advances to finals

By By Jeff Byrd / staff writer
April 30, 2002
MOSS POINT It may have been one of the ugliest three-hitters one may see in the state high school baseball playoffs, but it was enough to carry the Meridian High School Wildcats into the South State 5A Championship series.
Wildcat pitchers John Iverson and Jason Spinks combined to limit Moss Point to three hits for a decisive, third-game, 6-3 win in Monday night's Class 5A quarterfinal series here at Lassiter Field.
Meridian improves to 33-6 and will move on to face Oak Grove for the South State title in a best of three series that begins on Thursday at Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg. Moss Point finishes its season at 16-16.
Spinks, who pitched the final 3.1 innings of relief for Iverson, closed out Moss Point with a gutty save effort. The job was especially sweet since he lost a tough decision Friday night after Moss Point rallied for three runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 4-3 win.
Save for a one-run hit by Shane Crowley in the sixth, there would be no Tiger comeback this time. Spinks, a senior, retired the last four Tigers in order. He needed just three pitches to finish off the game in the bottom of the seventh.
Alexander made all four of his plays on ground balls to short in the final three innings. That, and three Spinks strikeouts, two pop ups and a grounder to Lance Burnham at third helped wrap up the Tigers. Meridian made no errors compared to five by Moss Point.
The problem for Meridian was walks. Iverson issued 10 walks on the night, eight in the first three innings. Still, he was able to come up with the big out. He struck out the final out with the bases-loaded in the first and third innings. Spinks did the same in the fourth. Moss Point would strand 12 runners in all for the game.
Moss Point coach John Tomes said his team missed its opportunity.
Meridian grabbed an early 2-0 lead in the first when Torry Bates tripled in John Stevens who had drawn a two-out walk. Courtesy runner Greg Harris then darted home drawing a balk call to make it 2-0.
Moss Point came back to tie it at 2-2 on a two-run double by Shane Crowley. The hit came after three of the first four Tigers drew walks.
Meridian bounced back with three runs in the second as Moss Point broke down defensively. Two boots at third, a catchers interference and a late throw home on a fielders choice helped set up the inning.
Andy Slayton scored the go-ahead run on Maurice Cole's fielders choice. Stevens then singled to right to score Pierre Henderson for a 4-2 lead. Alexander tried to score as well but was thrown out at the plate.
Stevens' hit signaled the end of Moss Point starter Drew Claridy. Game one starter Miles Clark came in relief but he lost a battle to Iverson who ripped a two-out single to score Cole for a 5-2 advantage.
After Moss Point failed to score after loading the bases in the third and fourth, Meridian got its final run in the fifth on a deep fly ball from Cole. Slayton properly tagged up and scored but a second Wildcat runner was called out on the live-ball appeal.
Crowley, who had all three of Moss Point's hit, made it 6-3 in the sixth when he singled with two out off Spinks.
Iverson went 3 2/3 allowing just two runs off one hit and 10 walks to go to 6-2. Spinks scattered two hits to earn the save. He fanned three and walked only one.
Iverson went 2-for-3 to lead the Wildcats at the plate. Cole knocked in two and Slayton, who had a good series, scored twice.