The Meridian Star
Before Meridian junior Gage Nettles stepped to the plate to deliver a walk-off single to help the Wildcats beat West Lauderdale 2-1 at Q. V. Sykes Field Saturday, coaches asked him if he could swing a bat.
Nettles did not start the game due to shoulder trouble and was unable to throw the ball in the field, but with one out and a runner on third, he was able to lift a pinch-hit single over a drawn in West Lauderdale infield to send Wildcat fans home happy on Meridian's season finale.
“They told me, Gage, come on,” Nettles said. “I went up to the plate, and I really wasn't that nervous. The only thing that was going through my head was to stay back and look for my pitch. When I hit it, I knew it was going to drop. It felt good, because I haven't seen a win against West Lauderdale since I was in seventh grade.”
Aaron Garrett relieved starting pitcher Kendrick Cole in the fourth inning, providing the Wildcats with four hitless innings to earn the win. Last week, Garrett was the losing pitcher in the Wildcats' 10-2 loss to West Lauderdale in Collinsvile.
“I just wanted to make up for last week,” Garrett said. “I wanted to come in and shut them down to get this last win for our seniors.”
West Lauderdale got on the board first in the third inning, as the Knights manufactured a run, using a walk, a single and a squeeze bunt to take a 1-0 lead.
The Knight's starter, Mason Wooldridge shut down the Wildcats for most of the ballgame. However, Meridian senior Antoine Watts tied the game in the bottom of the sixth, as he blooped a two-out single over second base to score Garrett from second.
“That was a big hit,” Meridian head coach Robert “Popeye” Cole said. “I told the guys, if we get two runs we will win the ballgame. I knew Garret was going to hold them that last inning.”
The win brings a spark back to the Meridian vs. West Lauderdale rivalry, as the Knights have dominated the series in recent years. For the Wildcats, beating West Lauderdale makes the walk off even sweeter.
“It feels real good to win today,” Garrett said. “As a Meridian Wildcat, you got to want to win against your county rivals, and we did that today.”
The loss drops West Lauderdale to 17-5 on the season, as the Knights travel to Neshoba Central on April 22. The win improves Meridian to 6-16 on the season, but more importantly to Cole, it sends the Wildcats off on a positive note.
“It's good for our seniors to go out with a win like that, and it's good for the rest of our guys as well,” Cole said. “To beat a team like West Lauderdale like this at the end of the year, it gives you momentum for next year.”