Wiggins' walk-off sends Sacred Heart to the second round

By CAMAL PETRO,

HATTIESBURG – Sacred Heart senior Griffin Wiggins admitted he was depressed earlier this season. Pitching in a game, he suffered an arm injury for the second straight year, and it would prevent him from seeing the field the rest of his high school career.

He had a decision to make – get surgery and miss the rest of the season or postpone the inevitable and come back as a hitter. He chose the latter and it paid off for him and his team.

“The first week, I hate to say it, but I was depressed,” Wiggins said. “I didn’t want to go out of the house, I cried and my parents basically told me I could have surgery now or I could try to hit the rest of the season. I said, ‘Well, I’m hitting.’ At first, it was a little bit of an adjustment. I have this big brace on, but I’ve been doing great. I haven’t missed a stride, so I’m happy.

“We weren’t supposed to be here, but we’re here. We’re in this thing. The sky is the limit for us.”

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In the bottom of the seventh with Game 2 against French Camp tied 6-6, Wiggins sent a liner to left field to score the game-winning run. Moments before he even went to the warm-up circle, he declared the game over in the dugout.

“I had to call it,” he said. “I just felt it. I got walked three times and a 500-foot popup, so I knew I was going to be on it. I didn’t miss it when he gave it to me. Coach gave me a take, we were taking until we got a strike. I got my strike, it was right there. I saw that pitch and it was slow. I got a little in front of it, just threw my hands and got it over the third baseman’s head to finish it off.”

With two runners in scoring position with one out and Wiggins in the hole, Wiggins wasn’t going to get a chance to bat unless a Crusaders’ baserunner got out on the base paths. That’s exactly what happened, and Wiggins delivered when he stepped to the plate.

“I was ready, though,” he said. “I was hoping I’d get to finish it for us, but I’d be happy either way.”

In 2017 after an elbow injury to his right arm, he came back to the batting order and hit .375. Even after a shoulder injury to the same arm this season, Wiggins has continued to light it up at the plate. Entering the playoffs, he’s hitting .423 from the dish, which is second behind eighth-grader Levi Odom’s .457.

Wiggins’ injury was to his labrum in his right shoulder, and he’ll have surgery once the season comes to an end.

“It’s almost unfair what’s happened with Griffin the last couple of years with the injuries,” Sacred Heart coach Drew Dewease said. “I mean, he threw one inning this year and got hurt. What a lot of people don’t understand is Griffin is like an extra coach in the dugout. He’ll go down there and work with pitchers in the bullpen, he’s called pitches the last two games and he’s found his role and excelled in it. I’m super proud of him.”

Sacred Heart (9-10) matches up with Stringer (15-10) in the second round of the playoffs. The dates and times have not been set yet, but the series is scheduled to start Friday, April 27.

“If these kids aren’t a picture of Larry Mixon, I don’t know what is,” Dewease said. “That’s just grit and toughness, and they never ever, even when it was 3-0, they never felt like it was out of hand. They just kept coming and coming. They’re so dang tough.”

The Crusaders are 1-0 on Larry Mixon Field after the school named the baseball field after the late former coach last Friday.

“First one on the new field, so I’m happy,” Wiggins said. “We’re still doing it for him.”

Sophomore Luke Odom and eighth-grader Levi Odom, the team’s leading pitcher and hitter, respectively, missed Saturday’s game for undisclosed reasons. It is unclear when the two will return.

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