98 Eagles had things to prove
May 24, 2003
This is the fourth of a five-part series looking at past Meridian Community College baseball teams that have taken part in the Junior College World Series in Grand Junction, Colo.
The 1998 Meridian Community College baseball team was on a mission.
Despite the fact a lot of the 1998 players really weren't starters on the 1997 team, the Eagles looked to avenge the disappointment the team suffered the previous season.
In 1997 the Eagles were ranked No.1 in the nation from the preseason poll to the final regular season poll, only to drop two straight games to Wallace-Hanceville (Ala.) in the Southeastern District Playoffs to end the season a 50-8 record and miss out on a trip to Grand Junction, Colo., and the Junior College World Series.
On top of that, the 1998 squad didn't do it the easy way.
Meridian dropped the first game of the Region 23 Tournament to Gulf Coast by the score of 10-6 and it looked like the Eagles' dreams of returning to Colorado were almost impossible.
The Eagles bounced back to beat East Mississippi 11-0 Friday, East Central 3-1 Saturday and Gulf Coast 13-0.
That set up a showdown between Meridian and Miss-Lou Conference arch-rival Delgado (La.) Community College Sunday. The Eagles had to beat Delgado twice to advance to the Southeastern District.
Meridian blasted Delgado 15-6 in the first game, behind five innings of outstanding relief pitching by freshman pitcher Josh Wooten.
First baseman Michael Artman was 3-for-4 with five RBIs in the game, while Josh Hesse was 3-for-6, and Ryan Gernard was 3-for-5 with four RBIs. Artman and Gernard ripped two home runs each, while third baseman Scott Merkich added a homer and two other hits as well.
MCC rolled to an easy win in the second game as well.
Meridian cruised past visiting Central Alabama 7-0 and 14-1 in the 1998 Southeast District Playoff Series to earn the school's fourth trip to the Juco World Series in the 1990s.
Sophomore pitcher Jason Moates dominated the first game, striking out 14 hitters and giving up just two hits.
Meridian lost to Brevard (N.C.) College 9-4 in the first round of the Juco World Series, before bouncing back to beat Central Florida 4-1 and Dixie (Utah) 12-4.
The Eagles were eliminated by Indian Hills (Iowa) by the score of 13-5. Cowley County (Kansas) Community College went on to win the National Tournament.
Reggie Scott led the 1998 Eagles with a single-season school record batting average of .435. He also blasted 18 homers and a school record 81 RBIs.
Brian Shipp hit .397 with 26 doubles, while Shane Kelly hit .385 and Artman hit .380.
Jeff Hunter was 7-1 on the mound with an ERA of 2.15, while Cliff Lee was 9-2 and Moates was 8-2.