Three local MHSAA teams chasing pennant
By By Marty Stamper/The Meridian Star
May 3, 2001
Three local baseball teams, two of which are defending state champions, are all that's left of the area's diamond clubs as the Mississippi High School Activities Association's state playoffs reach the North/South State championship round this week.
Class 3A defending state champion West Lauderdale and Class 1A defending state champion Lake, along with Class 5A Meridian, still have shots at winning state titles in 2001.
Third-round MHSAA series are slated for Thursday, Saturday, and Monday with state championship series May 10-14.
The 32-3 Knights of West Lauderdale swept North Pike 10-0 and 15-1 to earn a berth in the Class 3A South State championship series with Greene County, 27-10, which spanked Forest 12-2 and 10-0 last week.
Game 1 should be quite a contrast of good pitching with West's Todd Doolittle against good hitting with Greene County's potent offensive squad. West swept the Wildcats in last year's playoffs and that Greene County team had 10 seniors, seven of whom were starters.
Leading the Greene County offense are Chad McIlwain (16 doubles, two triples, two HRs), Elliot Burch (nine doubles, two triples, four HRs), Lynn Simpson (eight doubles), Allen Cook (seven doubles), Gary Dixon (seven doubles, six HRs), and Nick Chatham (eight doubles).
Top pitchers are McIlwain (10-3) and Luke Mills (5-1).
Boatner will open the series Thursday night at 6 p.m. at Collinsville with Doolittle (11-0, 1.30 ERA) on the mound. Doolittle averages 15 strikeouts, 1.7 hits, and 1.9 walks per seven innings.
In the playoffs, he's been even better than that. In 10 playoff innings, Doolittle has tossed back-to-back no-hitters. Only three runners have reached base in that span one on a passed ball on a strikeout, one on a walk, and one on an error.
Meanwhile, Greene County has averaged 14.3 runs in its last three playoff games. The Wildcats also swept Southeast Lauderdale 3-1 and 21-2.
Leading the Knights' offense are Brad McKee (.464, 5 HRs, 36 RBIs), Van Wilson (.450, 7 HRs, 30 RBIs), Doolittle (.404), Josh Snider (.387), Trent Posey (.338), Ryan Clay (.357), Richie McAllister (.333), Miles Joyner (.314), and Bo Davis (.267).
Clay (8-2, 2.50 ERA) will get the nod for Boatner in Saturday's 6 p.m. contest at Leakesville. Clay averages 0.9 walks per seven innings.
A third game, if needed, would be Monday at 6 p.m. at Collinsville.
Both teams have played Meridian this year with West winning 8-7 and 4-3 and Greene County beating the Wildcats 17-16.
Lake, 25-7, will get St. Aloysius, 22-3, for the 1A South State title in a series scheduled to begin Thursday at 6 p.m. in Vicksburg. The two Division 6-1A teams met twice during the regular season with each team taking a win. St. Aloysius won the first meeting 6-3 at Vicksburg, while Lake took the second game 3-1 at Lake. Lake swept the Flashes in last year's regular season action.
The Flashes were the 6-1A champion by virtue of run differential as both were 13-1 in the league and were 1-1 in head-to-head competition.
Goodman will open the series Thursday with Eric Watkins (7-2) on the mound. In nine playoff innings against Mercy Cross, Watkins struck out 16.
Craig Martin (8-1) will take the mound for the Hornets in Saturday's 7 p.m. contest at Lake.
A third game, if needed, would be Monday at Vicksburg at 6 p.m.
Top pitchers for the Flashes are Ryan Hearn (10-1) and Aaron George (8-1) with George the likely starter in the series opener as Hearn went the distance in the Flashes' 11-4 win at Union on Monday.
Top hitters for the Hornets are Jason McGee, Jason Massey, Jake Nester, Martin, Bryan Williamson, Watkins, Eric Gunn, and Brandon Burrus.
Hearn, George, Blake Warnock, and Charlie Amborn lead the Flashes.
Meridian, 25-13, gets Hattiesburg, 28-7, for the 5A South State championship. That series is slated to open Thursday at 6 p.m. at John Moss Field.
Meridian head coach Vince McLemore knows his team is a heavy underdog against the Tigers.
Dandy Dozen third baseman Sanduan Dubose leads Meridian with a .471 batting average. In the Wildcats' 38 games, he's hit safely in 32 and has 16 multiple-hit games. Dubose has 13 doubles, seven homers, and 37 RBIs. He's also drawn 29 walks.
Other top Meridian batters are John Iverson (.362, six doubles, 33 RBIs), Torry Bates (.351, six doubles, five homers, 31 RBIs), John Stevens (.400, seven doubles, 22 RBIs), Kris Barnett (nine doubles), and Ricky McMillian (seven doubles).
On the mound for the Cats are Iverson (9-2 with 50 strikeouts in 54 innings), Jason Spinks (6-0 with 46 strikeouts in 47 1/3 innings), Tyler Maxwell (5-3, 3.06 ERA), and John Hays Compton (3-6, 3.23 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 60 innings).
The Wildcats and Tigers split a pair of regular-season games last year but have not met in 2001.
Top pitchers for Hattiesburg are 6-foot-7, 245-pound Ole Miss signee Josh Grant (9-1) and USM signee Cliff Russum (8-2). Both are Dandy Dozen choices as is catcher/pitcher Craig Tatum, who has signed with Mississippi State.
Top Tiger batters are Billy Porter (10 doubles, four triples), Matt Shepherd (five doubles, two triples), Tatum (five doubles, five HRs), Chris Heath (five triples), and Grant (seven HRs).
In Mississippi Private School Association baseball, Kemper Academy travels to Heidelberg Academy today for the second game of their second round Academy A series. Heidelberg won the opener 5-1 Tuesday at DeKalb. The second game is slated for 4:30 p.m. with a third game, if needed, to follow tonight.
Marty Stamper is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at email@example.com.