Ocean Springs has won two state championships on the baseball diamond in the history of the Greyhound program. And the second and last to date of those pair of titles came 15 years ago.
The Greyhounds, under the direction of third-year head coach Jesse Kanode, ruled the largest classification in the state of Mississippi that year by knocking off nationally-ranked Tupelo in the Class 5A state finals.
“You always set a goal of winning a state championship,” Kanode said, to The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson after being named Coach of the Year” that season. “We said ‘Let’s win 20 games, get in the playoffs and get hot and make a run’. Fortunately, that’s what happened.”
Ocean Springs finished the regular season as the Region 8-5A champs with a 20-9 overall record but Kanode’s crew ran roughshod in league play at a perfect 6-0.
The Greyhounds experienced quite a major turnaround in a short time under Kanode, as OSHS went just 8-19 the year the new head coach left Mercy Cross to take the helm of the Greyhound program.
But all that was forgotten as the 2008 South State playoffs opened. Ocean Springs quickly dispatched perennial state power Hattiesburg in the opening round of the postseason, sweeping. pair of games from the Hub City Tigers 4-1 and 6-1.
From that point, though, the road got a little more rocky for OSHS as he journey through the playoffs continued as the Greyhounds would need all three games in the next three series’ to seal the deal.
Next up, OSHS beat Brandon 6-0 on the road but fell to those same Bulldogs 8-6 two days later. The Greyhounds came up with the big bats n the rubber match dispatching BHS 14-7 in game three.
Ocean Springs then fared the same against Terry in the South State finals, beating Terry 4-3 and 5-0 with a 4-3 loss sandwiched in between against that band of Bulldogs and eventual Mississippi “Mr. Baseball” award winner Re’Shun Dixon.
The state finals were set at that point, as Tupelo, who at one point that season sat atop the prestigious USA Today nationwide Top 25 Prep Poll as well as Baseball America, awaited the Greyhounds at Trustmark Park in Pearl.
Ocean Springs was looking for its first state championship since 1982. However, the Golden Wave proved to be a formidable opponent as all three games in the state title match-up went to extra innings at the minor league home of the Atlanta Braves AA affiliate.
The Greyhounds picked up a game one win 5-4 in nine frames, as sophomore Sam Noblin delivered a game-winning RBI-single walk-off single. Noblin, who would also go on to start at quarterback for OSHS on the gridiron for several seasons, came through with his key hit after the Greyhounds overcame an early 3-0 Tupleo lead. Robert Wineski pitched a complete game for OSHS to get the win.
Game two, the next day, went to Tupleo 5-4 in eight innings. And that set the stage for the winner take all game three days later on Tuesday, May 20th, 2008.
The Golden Wave, behind ace pitcher Chris Stratton, jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead in the top of the fourth, thanks in part to a two-run double by Stratton in that inning. The Greyhounds began their historic comeback with Wineski’s two-run, two-out double in the bottom of the fourth frame.
Ocean Springs courtesy runner Micahel Reynolds then played a vital role for OSHS down the stretch. The Greyhounds cut the deficit to one run, at 4-3, in the fifth, when Reynolds scored on a wild pitch. Ocean Springs then tied the game up with yet another unearned run in the bottom of the seventh as Reynolds scored on a Tupelo error.
Then, after Greyhound standout relief pitcher Michael Baxter kept the Golden Wave off the scoreboard in the top of the eighth, Reynolds was on the base path again when Justin Garriga delivered a walk-off, RBI game-winning single in the bottom of the eighth inning. Reynolds slid home just beyond the tag of the Tupelo catcher, igniting an on-field celebration covered in blue and grey.
“We were not going to give up when we got down,” Kanode told The Clarion-Ledger’s Todd Kelly amidst the jubilation. OSHS finished the season at 28-9, while THS went 32-7.
Not only was Kanode named Coach of the Year by that same publication, but he also earned Class 5A CotY honors statewide as well. Catcher Patrick Kirkland and shortstop Travis Creel were named to the Class 5A
First Team squad also. Baxter was a Second Team selection.
As a team, OSHS hit .342 overall on the season and smacked 40 home runs. The senior Kirkland hit a sparkling .408, with eight home runs both of which were team-high numbers. He also drove in 30 runs. Creel hit at a .325 clip at the plate with seven home runs and a team-high 38 RBIs. Wineski hit .390 and collected 32 RBI’s, while outfielder Zach Desoto hit .363 with seven homers and he drove in a team-high 35 runs. Noblin, the oldest son of former All-SEC Ole Miss safety Dr. Jeff Noblin, hit .333 on the year in his first season of varsity ball.
On the mound, the right-handed trio of Wineski, Baxter and Matt Nettles all combined for 23 of the 28 OSHS wins on the season as Wineski finished 9-3 (2.29 ERA), Baxter at 9-1 (and a sparkling ERA of 1.89) and Nettles at 5-4(3.54 ERA).