By Tony Tsoukalas / Sports Writer
The Meridian Star
Baseball season might be winding down to its final days, but Larry Weems and the Meridian High School Wildcats are battling a two-strike count.
After a disappointing 31-28 loss to Oak Grove last week, the Wildcats, 1-2 in Division 3-6A play, are in serious danger of missing out on the playoffs and striking out on a once promising season. Meridian, which hosts Brandon at Ray Stadium today at 7 p.m., last lost two division games in 2003. MHS hasn’t lost more than that since a 2-5 finish in Division 3-5A in 2002.
“We can’t drop any more,” Weems said. “I’ve been telling them we have to win them all anyways. I don’t know how it’s going to shake out in the end, but I don’t know how many three-loss teams have made it out of our region.”
Against Oak Grove, the Wildcats saw a 28-9 lead at halftime evaporate in the second half, as the Warriors scored seven in the third and 15 in the fourth to pull off the comeback.
Meridian quarterback J-Mar Smith said the Wildcats did not play with enough intensity after halftime and took their big lead for granted. As one of the leaders of the offense, Smith said he will take it upon himself to make sure Meridian does not have a repeat performance of last week again this season.
“I’m the leader of the team, and my reaction to the game affects everybody,” Smith said. “When I’m down, other people can get down. When I’m feeling good about things or how the play’s going, people feed off of me.
“The second half, we just got too big on ourselves, and we thought we were going to win the game. We didn’t fight hard enough. I don’t think I showed enough spirit in that game so people didn’t feed off me.”
Things won’t get any easier this week for the Wildcats, as they go up against a 6-1 Brandon team hungry to avenge a narrow loss to Petal last week. Weems said he knows Friday’s game will be a battle, as both teams want to avoid two straight losses.
“They are very talented,” Weems said of Brandon, which MHS has beaten 10 straight times back through the 2003 season Last year, the Wildcats beat the Bulldogs twice in Brandon, including the second round of the state playoffs. “After watching them on film, I felt like them and Petal, talent and experience-wise, are the best teams in our region. They have the size and power on both sides of the ball. They have got it all over the field. They are an excellent team, and they will be a great challenge for us.”
Weems said the team wont try anything unusual this week, as it heads into the must-win matchup. Instead, Weems and the Wildcats are going to do the only thing they know best — work.
“That’s all we can do this week,” Weems said. “You go back and you work on what you can do to get better. There is no magic play that we had or didn’t have. It goes back to work and preparation and effort. If you do that for a whole ballgame, you have a real good chance to win.”
Despite the two losses, Weems feels like his team is better than its record indicates. However, only time will tell if the Wildcats have what it takes to translate the potential onto the field.
“I believe we have lost two ballgames to teams we are better than,” Weems said. “I don’t think we are a great team, but I think we are a better team than the two teams we played. As a coach, I was disappointed that I couldn’t get our kids to the level where we could have taken care of business.”
With no room for error, Meridian players know, now is the time to lay everything on the field, as they fight for a win and possibly their playoff life Friday night against Brandon.
“It’s time to show the dog in you,” Smith said. “It is do-or-die time right now, and we just need to come out and fight harder.”