April 22, 2009
MABEN -- Jermaine Liggins'' nickname doesn''t do him justice.
Growing up, Liggins earned the moniker "half pint" because of his size.
Liggins has matured into a senior leader for the East Webster High School baseball team, and the ping of the baseball off his bat sounds more like someone nicknamed "pint."
Liggins and classmates Blake Love and Reggie O''Briant are just three of the hard-hitting Wolverines who will lead the team Thursday into its best-of-three Class 1A playoff series against Bogue Chitto.
Liggins, Love, and O''Briant accounted for 13 of the Wolverines'' 23 hits in a doubleheader sweep of Puckett last week.
Coach Wes Johnson said the trio is part of a group of eight seniors that starts for the Wolverines and is the team''s backbone.
"We really swing the bat one through nine," Johnson said. "Tomorrow night it might be three more. We have done that all year. That is what has made us so good, the fact we can swing it one through nine. We had several guys who had three hits in the first game and the next game you might look up and three different guys have three hits."
Liggins'' nickname was a topic of conversation for fans in the stands watching the doubleheader against Puckett. Several fans cheered for Liggins using "half pint," while others called out "pint."
In game two, someone put it best when they said, "(Liggins'' nickname) used to be half pint, but he got too big and now he is a whole pint."
Johnson even laughed at the "controversy," calling Liggins "pint" because he had a double, single, home run, walk, and four RBIs in a 14-4 victory against Puckett in game one.
After the game, Liggins said his nickname is "half pint" but then quickly said either one is fine with him. He said his mother first gave him the nickname because he used to be 5-foot-7. At 6-1 today, Liggins has filled out nicely and he uses that strength to make life miserable for pitchers.
"I have been really successful and hitting the ball pretty well all year," Liggins said. "
While Liggins is a run producer in the middle of the lineup, O''Briant is the spark that ignites the attack. The center fielder combines speed and power in the leadoff spot to give the Wolverines a table-setter who can get things started for Love, who hits No. 2, Christopher Gordon, Tanner Roberson, and the rest of the lineup.
"Reggie has been our emotional leader for four years," Johnson said. "Our team kind of goes like Reggie goes. He is wide open. He plays hard, and to me it brings the level of play of the other players up a level."
O''Briant might not have 18 home runs this season like he hit as a freshman because he said he is more selective at the plate. As a freshman, he said he used to love to swing at first-pitch fastballs. Today, he is more apt to work a count and "settle" for a walk or a single to get a rally started.
"I have gotten more patient," O''Briant said. "When I was a freshman, if I would get in a hole I would not be able to get myself out. I would swing at a ball down in the dirt. I have worked on it in practice and now I know what I am not going to do when I go up to the plate."
Liggins, Love, O''Briant, and Gordon (baseball) and Roberson (football) will continue their athletic careers at Holmes Community College in the fall.
Love, a pitcher/shortstop, had three hits, including a two triples, a double, and three RBIs, in game two to secure the sweep. He said the Wolverines'' hard work on hitting every day in practice has helped them score so many runs. He said little things like getting bunts down are going to be a big part of the team''s ability to go deeper into the playoffs.
As for the debate about Liggins'' nickname, Love said it is "half pint" because it is always what he has known Jermaine by.
Asked if Jermaine would graduate to "pint" Love said probably not but it would be nice if he did.
Winning a state title just might be the final step in the process.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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