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Wildcats gear up for Oak Grove

By By Jeff Byrd / staff writer
May 2, 2002
Following a day off from Monday night's long trip home after dispatching Moss Point in the second round 5A playoff series, the Meridian Wildcats were back at work Wednesday gearing up for the South State 5A series with Oak Grove.
The best of three series begins tonight at 7 p.m. at Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg. Game two of the series is set for Saturday at 4 p.m. at John Moss Field in Meridian. Game three, if necessary, will be Monday night at 7 p.m. at Oak Grove.
The South State series brings together two of the top baseball programs in South Mississippi. Oak Grove was a power in the 3A and 4A ranks under legendary head coach Harry Breland. This is the Warriors first year to compete in 5A.
They've done well compiling an impressive 25-4 record. This includes a pair of two-game sweeps in the opening two rounds of the playoffs. The Warriors sent Wayne County packing in two. They then beat Pascagoula 6-3 and 2-1 to sweep the second round series.
Meridian, meanwhile, has had to go a third game in each of its two series. The Wildcats knocked off Petal in the first round taking a 9-4 win in a decisive third game. On Monday, they beat Moss Point 6-3 in game three.
In the other 5A semifinal, Madison Central will take on Tupelo in a best of three series. The two series winners will then meet for the 5A title.
Meridian head coach Vince McLemore says now that the Wildcats have made it to the Final Four, they have as good a chance as any to win the big prize.
McLemore does know his team faces a tough opponent in Oak Grove.
Pitching has been a big factor for the Wildcats in the playoffs. Jason Spinks came in and threw three-plus innings of great relief to beat Moss Point on Monday night.
Spinks will start Thursday's game. He is 9-1 with a 1.24 earned run average with 93 strike outs in 72 1/3 innings pitched.
Tyler Maxwell has two wins in relief for the Wildcats. He is 6-2 with 53 fans and a 1.90 ERA.
John Iverson, who has started both game threes, is 6-2 with a 2.03 ERA while Torry Bates (8-1, 1.59 ERA) has been been the game two starter in both series.
Meridian's team batting average fell to .343 after running into a good Moss Point staff, but McLemore wants to see more production.
Bates leads the Wildcats in batting with a .434 average. He has nine home runs and has driven in 49. First baseman John Stevens bats .413 with seven homers and 39 RBI. Shortstop Richmond Alexander is at .405 with 49 runs scored out of the leadoff role.
Iverson is hitting .363 with 24 RBI and three homers while second basemen Maurice Cole is at .339.