E.A. Sports Today

Jackets bounce back

Oxford gets strong pitching outings from deep in the rotation to win three games

Sophomore catcher Derek Miller (R) comes off the field with Mason Wilkins (L) and Andy Hammond after Oxford blanked Piedmont 4-0.

Sophomore catcher Derek Miller (R) comes off the field with Mason Wilkins (L) and Andy Hammond after Oxford blanked Piedmont 4-0.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Derek Miller hasn’t had many opportunities to swing the bat this season, but he has always been ready.

Miller is a regular in Oxford baseball coach Wes Brooks’ lineup, but the sophomore catcher often finds his spot in the left-handed laden batting order going to his brother Dillen, the Yellow Jackets’ designated hitter.

With the probability of facing a left-handed pitcher at some point in the day, Brooks gave Derek Miller a chance to hit for himself Saturday and he responded with several quality at-bats as the Jackets won three games less than 24 hours after dropping two tight ones to an area rival.

They handled Clay Central 6-0, Piedmont 4-0 and Wellborn 9-1. Miller didn’t bat in the Clay Central game, but he had two hits, a walk and drove in the first run against Piedmont and had a hit and two RBIs in two plate appearances against Wellborn.

“Mostly right now I need to focus on catching more than hitting and if I do get an at-bat I’ve got to do what I can for the team,” Miller said. “You’ve just got to do what you can with what you get. You’ve got to just focus on what’s about to happen.”

Both of his hits against Piedmont were opposite-field safeties off starter Bayley Blanchard. His double in the second inning knocked in the first run of the game and his single in the fourth started a two-out rally that produced the Jackets’ second run. He drew a walk from Taylor Hayes in the sixth.

Miller only has about a dozen at-bats this season, but far more important to the Yellow Jackets is he has more than 80 percent quality plate appearances.

“The last three games against Pell City every pitch everybody’s on the edge of their seat,” Brooks said. “Today is a day that gives us a good chance to do some things like … if a guy hadn’t hit a lot maybe let him hit and see what he can do and (Miller) made the best of it.

“He keeps on doing that he’s going to have a shot to hit for himself. It makes us better as a team and it should push some of our down-the-line guys (to step up their games) … because he puts it in play. He’s doing a good job.”

As the scores would suggest, the Yellow Jackets got some solid pitching performances from deep in their rotation. The only run they allowed all day came in the seventh inning of their final game.

Chance Adams pitched a complete-game five-hit shutout in the first game. Mason Wilkins pitched a complete-game one-hit shutout in the second. And four pitchers scattered seven hits in the third.

“Our pitchers and defense were the main factor in bouncing back today,” Brooks said. “Granted we were down in our arms. We threw our 1 and 2 on Tuesday and 3, 4 and 5 on Friday, so our 6, 7, 8, 9 guys threw today. Not bad for our six through nine guys to only give up one run on the day.”

Wilkins, one of only two seniors on the roster, struck out five and walked three in his gem. The only hit he gave up Cale McCord’s fifth-inning single. He faced only four hitters over the minimum to pick up his first win in four outings this season.

“From the bullpen I felt great and … basically everything was working,” he said. “At the start of the year Coach Brooks really worked hard with me on throwing my splitty and being able to spot it and it was pretty spot on today.

“I was confident in myself and confident in my team behind me and I got up there and just threw.”

Among the hitters, Austin Bolander and Nate Lloyd both had two hits against Clay Central and Piedmont and Adams had three hits in the Wellborn game.


Oxford 6, Clay Central 0

Clay Central 000 000 0 — 0 5 0
Oxford 030 012 x — 6 9 1

JOE BURNS and Robert Reynolds; CHANCE ADAMS and Derek Miller. 2B: Michael Smith (CC). 3B: Austin Bolander (O). WP: Chance Adams. LP: Joe Burns.

Oxford 4, Piedmont 1

Piedmont 000 000 0 — 0 1 0
Oxford 010 102 x — 4 6 0

BAYLEY BLANCHARD, Taylor Hayes (5) and Derrick Baer; MASON WILKINS and Derek Miller. 2B: Derek Miller (O). WP: Mason Wilkins (1-2). LP: Bayley Blanchard.

Oxford 9, Wellborn 1

Wellborn 000 000 1 — 1 7 2
Oxford 413 100 x — 9 11 1

ETHAN BEADLES, Landon Machristie (4) and Jacob Shears; JACOB SEARS, Jacob Cook (4), Dillen Miller (5), Brody Syer (7) and Derek Miller, Connor Syer (5). 2B: Landon Machristie (W), Brent Hanson (W), Jacob Sears (O), Austin Bolander (O). WP: Jacob Sears. LP: Ethan Beadles.

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