Tigers shut out Meridian
Special to the Star
May 6, 2001
HATTIESBURG It was a beautiful day for baseball for the home team Saturday afternoon at Smokie Harrington Park.
And there were a number of reasons why as Hattiesburg High School's Tigers whipped Meridian 5-0 for the Class 5A South Mississippi championship.
The Tigers took their 30th victory of the season. Hattiesburg advanced to the state championship series n to start Thursday at Warren Central n for the fourth time in the past five years.
HHS pitcher Cliff Russum narrowly missed a no-hitter, allowing only a weak infield single with two outs in the sixth inning.
The Hattiesburg defense played superbly and the hitting was more than adequate. All the 30-7 Tigers could have spoken the humorous saying, "It don't get much better than this." Instead, or maybe indeed, Hattiesburg coach Larry Knight said, "It makes us feel very good."
No one who saw the one hour, 40-minute game would question him.
No doubt about that.
Russum and Meridian pitcher John Iverson locked up in a pitchers' duel early before Hattiesburg struck for two runs in the bottom of the third inning.
After two were out, due to a double play, Matt Shepherd walked, then scored on Billy Porter's triple to right-center field. Porter scored when Craig
Tatum grounded up the middle.
Meridian second baseman Kris Barnett made a backhanded stab of the grounder but his throw pulled first baseman Jon Stevens just a bit off the base, allowing Tatum to reach first and, more importantly, Porter to score.
In other words, Russum (9-2) could challenge the Wildcats a little more
instead of pitching around the big hitters. And he did, finishing with eight strikeouts and staying in charge of the game.
Coach Knight focused on being more focused throughout the whole game. I kept the fastball down and mixed the curveball in there and it seemed to work."
HHS padded its lead with two more runs in the fifth inning. Derek Underwood singled to left field and Shepherd beat out an infield single. Both moved up a base on a throwing error on Shepherd's grounder. One run scored on Porter's grounder back to the mound and another scored on a single to center field by Tatum.
The 4-0 lead was good for the Tigers. But some might question another action. Tatum took the blame.
no-hitter going. I said, Hey, you've got a … no-hitter going.' I didn't realize it (might be bad luck) until after I said it. It was already a little too late."
With two out in the top of the sixth, Meridian (25-15) leadoff hitter Richmond Alexander hit a weak ground ball that Hattiesburg third baseman
Brandon Havens had no chance to make a play on. It was a 70-foot ground ball, but it was the first hit of the game off Russum.
The Tigers scored their final run in the fifth inning as Josh Grant singled, courtesy runner Alex Donaldson stole second, went to third on a ground out and scored on Gregory Alexander's double into right-center field.
And, jinx or not, Russum seemed to get stronger as the game went on. Although he retired the first 11 batters he faced before walking Dubose, a few of those outs were hard-hit balls. As the game went on, the only hard-hit ball was Dubose's seventh-inning drive to right-center field. On it, Porter raced to his right toward the great stone wall at Harrington Park and made a backhanded catch near the wall.