Oak Grove edges past Wildcats
By By Stan Caldwell / special to The Star
May 3, 2002
HATTIESBURG There was enough drama Thursday night to keep your average soap opera going for quite some time.
Unfortunately for Meridian High, the show ended badly. In a game where both teams made valiant seventh-inning rallies, it was home-standing Oak Grove that got the last chance to bat, and the Warriors took advantage, defeating the Wildcats 7-6 in the first game of the Class 5A South Mississippi Championship series at Oak Grove's Clinton Field.
Oak Grove improves to 26-4; Meridian drops to 33-7. The second game of the best-of-three game series will be at Meridian Saturday at 4 p.m.
It came down to missed opportunities for the Wildcats, who had plenty of chances to score runs before the dramatic seventh inning. Indeed, Meridian outhit Oak Grove 10-9. But the Wildcats had two runners picked off first base and had a potentially big fifth-inning rally snuffed out by an inning-ending double play.
Runs should have been at a premium with ace pitchers Jason Spinks and Chris Larson battling. Meridian's Spinks brought a 1.24 ERA into the game and Oak Grove's Larson came in with a 1.39 ERA.
But neither pitcher was particularly sharp, and Spinks was also victimized by some sloppy defense. Oak Grove took the early lead in the bottom of the second on a single by Kyle Sellers, a stolen base and a double by Keith Winstead.
The Wildcats quickly tied the game with a run in the top of the third, when Andy Slayton reached on an error, went to second on a single by Alexander and scored on a double by Maurice Cole.
MHS took the lead in the top of the fourth on a leadoff single by Torry Bates, who went to third on an error and scored on a single by Ricky McMillian.
But the lead didn't last long. In the Oak Grove fourth, the Warriors plated three runs, with the help of four Wildcat errors. Todd Siders drew a leadoff walk and scored when Drew Robinson clubbed a home run to right field.
Sellers followed with a single and he came around to score from first when a pickoff throw from Spinks went awry and the throw back to third base went over the head of third baseman Tyler Maxwell and bounced over the fence out of play. After another single, McLemore brought in Quinten Warren to put out the fire.
Warren kept the Wildcats in the game through the fifth and sixth innings, long enough for Lady Luck to seemingly turn Meridian's way.
Alexander led off the fateful seventh with a single, but was immediately erased on a pickoff by Larson. Cole reached on a single, but he too was erased at second base on a double-play ball off the bat of John Stevens, who managed to beat the relay to first base.
Bates then appeared to make the final out on a grounder to shortstop, but it was ruled that first baseman Siders' foot slipped off the bag. Given new life, the Wildcats pounced on the opportunity.
John Iverson hit a long double to drive in Stevens and bring Larson's night to an end, in favor of Marc Maddox, the Warrior closer. But McMillian got hold of a mistake by Maddox and sent an opposite-field home run to right field to score three runs and give Meridian a 6-4 lead.
Given the lead, however, Warren appeared to run out of gas in the bottom of the seventh. Marc Griffin was hit by Warren's first pitch of the inning, then after a strikeout, Maddox atoned for his pitching mistake by smashing a game-tying homer to right field.
Warren managed to get another out, but Robinson drew a walk, stole second and came home with the winning run on a single by Sellers. The turnaround made a loser of Warren (3-1) and a winner of Maddox (2-1).