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MHS tumbles to Oak Grove

By By Stan Caldwell / special to the Star
May 8, 2002
HATTIESBURG This time, there were no miracles, no last-inning heroics, for Meridian High School.
The Wildcats picked the worst possible time to play maybe their worst game of the season Tuesday night, suffering an 11-5 defeat at the hands of Oak Grove in the third and deciding game of the Class 5A South Mississippi Championship series at Clinton Field.
The loss ended Meridian's season at 34-8, as the Wildcats fell just short of the state finals for the second straight season. Last year, MHS lost in the South State finals to Hattiesburg. Oak Grove (27-5) moves on to battle Madison Central for the 5A state championship.
There wasn't much doubt about that. The Wildcats committed four errors, threw four wild pitches and allowed a passed ball, and surrendered seven walks to Warrior batters.
Meridian got an early indication of how things might go in the first inning. Richmond Alexander opened the game by lacing a double into the gap in right center field, then John Stevens got a one-out infield single. But Stevens was picked off first base and Oak Grove was able to get a ground-ball out to quell the threat.
And in the bottom of the first, Iverson (5-3) gave up a two-out walk to Marc Maddox and threw three wild pitches to allow Maddox to score with the game's first run.
For the first few innings, the two teams played hot potato with the lead.
The Wildcats took the lead in the third, when Andy Slayton hit a leadoff single, then advanced to second on a single by Alexander. Slayton came around to score when Warrior starter Chris Larson (8-2) threw two wild pitches of his own, and Alexander scored on a slow grounder to third base.
Oak Grove came right back with three runs in the bottom of the third, as Maddox and Todd Siders had back-to-back singles and Drew Robinson walked, all with one out. Iverson got one out on a strikeout, but an error allowed one run to score and the Warriors scored two more on a single by Keith Winstead.
Back came the Wildcats in the top of the fourth, as they scored three runs to retake the lead. Ricky McMillian got a one-out single, stole second and went to third on a single by Pierre Henderson. Slayton singled to load the bases and McMillian scored when Tyler Maxwell was hit by a pitch. Alexander then drove in two more runs with a single.
But the Warriors grabbed the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth. Bailey Hartel was hit by a pitch to open the inning, and Maddox made Iverson pay for that mistake by clubbing a two-run home run to right field. One out later, Sellers hit a solo shot to make it 7-5.
And that's pretty much the way it went for the Wildcats in a disastrous four-run fifth inning that pretty much sealed their fate, as senior reliever Jason Spinks simply couldn't find the strike zone, giving up four walks and a wild pitch. The Wildcats also allowed a run-scoring passed ball in the inning.
While the Wildcats were self-destructing, Oak Grove made the plays to support Larson, who was not at his best, but managed to go the distance for the Warriors.
McMillian and Slayton each had a pair of singles for Meridian; Siders had three singles for Oak Grove.
Although the season ended on a disappointing note for Meridian, McLemore said his team had nothing to be ashamed of.
MHS loses five senior starters from this year's team, but returns a solid group of underclassmen.

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