The Biloxi Indians sat atop the world of prep baseball 35 years ago as they captured the 1988 Class 5A state championship in dramatic fashion.
Under the direction of first-year head coach Chuck Butler, Biloxi overcame a talented and nationally-raked Starkville squad in the best of three state title series winning the third and final contest 6-2 on Saturday, June 4th at Frierson Field in Clinton on the campus of Mississippi College.
The Yellow Jackets were coming off back-to-back state championships in 1986 and 1987, and were heavily favored to extend their state title march to three straight that season.
But the Indians had other ideas.
“Starkville has a good team, but I don’t think they have any more talent than we do,” Butler told The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson after he was named the top prep baseball coach in the state at the end of the season. “No one expected us to win it, Starkville had just about everyone coming back (from the season before). We played good competition and came together as a team.”
The then 27-year-old Butler came to the Gulf Coast from Meridian High, where he’d been an assistant under veteran Wildcat head coach Bill McFarland for the three previous seasons. He led the Indians to their third overall state baseball championship after BHS took home the crown in both 1965 and 1970. The crown remains as the last one won by Biloxi to this date.
The Indians ran through Pearl, arch-rival Gulfport and then Pascagoula in the South State playoffs to earn the match-up with Starkville in the state finals.
The Yellow Jackets were led by pitcher Jason Williams, who was named as both the “Pitcher” and “Player of the Year” by the Clarion-Ledger that season. Williams won a school record 16 games in 18 outings that season on the hill, and also hit .333 at the plate. He came into the state finals with that 16-0 mark on the mound.
However, Biloxi handed him his only two losses of the season, beating him in game one in Starkville and also in the final game.
Starkville cruised into the state playoffs after an unbeaten regular season streak that reached 35 wins before losing to Greenville in the North State semifinals. The Yellow Jackets at one point were ranked second in the nation by Easton Sports Prep Baseball Poll.
But none of that mattered to Biloxi.
The Indians not only had an ace of their own on the mound, in senior Demetrius Jones, but a dominant one-two pitching punch in the form of Jones and junior David Marsland. Jones was a perfect 13-0 on the hill in 1988, and he compiled an impressive 1.86 ERA while striking out 82 batters in 83 innings of work. The versatile two-way standout manned third base when he wasn’t on the mound, and excelled at the plate as well hitting .370 with 17 runs batted in and he also stole 17 bases in 17 attempts. He was named first team all-state.
Jones earned the win in the final game a the Indians turned three key double plays behind him.
Marsland, meanwhile, went 12-4 that season with a 2.34 ERA and he also notched a no-hitter in a regular season win.
Biloxi shortstop Ronnie Ducksworth was also a first-team all-state selection. Not only did he hit .379 and drive in 37 runs while stealing 33 bases, but he was one of the top defenders in the state as well registering 67 putouts to go along with 67 assists and committing only eight errors.
Jones, Ducksworth, catcher Dack Demourrelle and centerfielder Kenny Kuhn were the only seniors on an Indian team that finished 29-9 overall for what at that point was a school record for wins in a season.
Kuhn, in fact, was a mainstay up the middle in centerfield along with Ducksworth at short and Demourrelle behind the plate definsively for the Indians.
Kuhn, in addition to his stellar defense roaming the middle of the outfield, was 21-for-21 in stolen base attempts.
Junior first baseman Mike Little was the top BHS offensive threat, leading the team in the triple crown at the plate hitting .385 along with seven home runs and 33 RBIs, all of which were team-high totals.
Little also drove in the game-winning runs in a 5-3 nine inning win in game one in Starkville with a two-run ground rule double, and he had two hits and scored two runs in the final game.
Designated hitter Geremie Hopkins also came up big in the title tilt, driving in three of Biloxi’s six runs.
The Yellow Jackets evened the series up with a 13-7 win at Hollis Field in Biloxi in game two, on a night in which the Biloxi High School graduation took place as well, before the teams met again in Clinton for the final contest.
Starkville finished the season 35-4.