BILOXI -- Brent Culberson scattered four hits to shutout top-ranked Class 6A Oak Grove 6-0 Saturday.
"It was a big win," said Ocean Springs coach Brian Rea, who noted the Warriors have been a consistent baseball dynasty in Mississippi. "It was a well-played baseball game on both sides. It was a good quality win for us."
Oak Grove coach Chris McCardle watched his team drop its first games of the season Saturday after the Warriors opened with 11 consecutive wins and were ranked 25th in the nation, according to MaxPreps.com. Gulfport beat the Warriors 6-5 in the opening game at MGM Park.
"It's definitely a positive for us," McCardle said. "We've played some good teams this season and here we played two great teams back-to-back."
McCardle said losing the two games will help remind his team that they still need work.
"Sometimes you can't get better until you failed. We can go back and do what we need to do to get better," he said.
The Warriors' season is still on track with Brandon next week.
"We have all our goals in front of us," he said. "Our goal is to win our district. We got some guys who haven't played that much some experience against great teams. It's been a good experience for us."
Culberson, who had pitched only 6-and-2/3rds innings this season, gave up only six baserunners to pick up the shutout over Warriors. Only Mack Pickering, who led the game off with a walk, and Scott McMurrian, who singled in the fourth inning, advanced as far as second base as Culberson retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced.
"I knew after the first couple of innings that I was feeling good," Culberson said. "My change up and curve ball were working, and I was getting the placement I wanted with my pitches."
Despite coming in as a relief pitcher for most of the year, Culberson said he wanted the complete game.
"I wanted to go the entire game," he said. "I was going for the win."
"This was his first major start in high school," Rea said. "He has pitched a lot of relief in short work. He gave us a good chance to win today."
Despite the score, the game was a pitching battle between Culberson and Oak Grove pitcher Payton Harris, who came into the game with a perfect 3-0 mark and an 0.93 ERA. A one-out double by Drew Windham, which scored Taylor Reeves, was the only score of the game through the first six innings.
Harris started the top of the seventh the way he had started most of the game, quickly recording the first two outs, the first on a comebacker to the mound and the second on a fly to center. However, with just one out remaining in the final inning, his control failed as he walked Cooper Brune and gave up a single to Brad Wall. Harris then hit Tate Pepper and James Noblin to plate Ocean Springs' second run. A walk to Reeves upped the Greyhounds' lead to 3-0.
Windham followed and sealed the game and ended Harris' day on the mound with a triple to left center, giving Ocean Springs a five-run seventh. Windham finished 2-for-4 with a double and triple and drove in four runs. He also reached in the sixth inning when the Oak Grove catcher lost his high pop in the MGM Park wind.
"I was just trying to put the barrel of the bat on the ball," Windham said, adding that he got a curve ball up in the strike zone. "We've been working on hitting curve balls all week long."
Expected to hit the ball well, Ocean Springs has struggled hitting the ball this year, coming into the game with a team batting average just above the Mendoza line. Rea said that he was seeing signs they Greyhounds were coming around at the plate in the game Friday against Gulfport and Saturday against Oak Grove.
"Several guys are starting to have good swings," he said. "We are starting to see the ball good. We just need to play some games. You have to hit your way out of a batting slump and the weather finally allowed us to do that."
Windham also thought the Greyhounds were coming out of their slump.
"We've always had a plan," he said. "It's just taken its time to take effect. You can't do anything about a slump except to work on it in the batting cage and games."
Rea said he is encouraged by his pitching staff. "Our pitching staff has given us time to get our hitting in order," he said. "We have good pitching depth and that makes me feel good. The playoffs are about pitching depth, good defense, and timely hitting."
Wall and Brune each had two hits to lead Ocean Springs. Culberson (1-0) gave up four hits, walked one, hit one batter, and struck out four.
Harris took the loss, going 6 and 2/3 innings. He gave up six hits, walked three batters, hit two batters, and struck out four batters. Zack Smith closed out the game for Oak Grove, getting the final out on a grounder to second.