E.A. Sports Today

Oxford takes 2 in tourney

(UPDATED) Jackets show they have plenty to sting left in beating Austin, Hoover

Oxford senior right-hander Mason Wilkins delivers a pitch in the early innings against Hoover Monday in the Buccaneer Classic. (Photo by Hub Roberts)

Oxford senior right-hander Mason Wilkins delivers a pitch in the early innings against Hoover Monday in the Buccaneer Classic. (Photo by Hub Roberts)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

HOOVER — Oxford’s hopes of playing for a state baseball championship may be dashed, but the Yellow Jackets still have plenty to play for in the games that remain — and they played like they did Monday.

Back on the field for the first time since being eliminated from playoff contention late last week, the Jackets gave what second baseman/reliever Trey Hopper called “a relentless effort” and won their first two games in the Buccaneer Classic, beating Austin 8-1 and host Hoover 12-5.

“It just feels good to come off a big loss and come back and have two huge wins on the day,” shortstop Austin Bolander said. “We were a little disappointed in the loss in the area, but there’s a championship to win here at this tournament and we’re going to do the best of our ability to win it.

“We had a lot of confidence going into the day; we had nothing to lose. We knew we were out of the playoffs, which was kind of bummed out, but we knew we had nothing to lose, so just go out there and have fun and play baseball. Don’t worry about the past; keep playing in the present.”

The Yellow Jackets (13-10) pounded 10 hits in the first game and 14 in the second. They used five straight hits to fuel a five-run third inning to take control of the first game and a five-run seventh inning to seal the second.

Andy Hammond and Hopper each had two hits in the first game, while Dillen Miller and Hammond held Austin to three hits from the mound.

Hopper and Bolander each had three hits in the second game, while Nate Lloyd had two hits and drew two walks. Hopper closed the game for starter Mason Wilkins and although Hoover loaded the bases with none out in the seventh, Hopper got out of it with a liner to third and a game-ending double play started by Bolander.

“Our coaches did a good job of pumping us up,” Hopper said. “We were definitely not pleased about the other night (but) everybody in the dugout (Monday) was kind of fired up and had confidence out there. We came out here and tried to play to the best of our ability. It was a good day.”

Wilkins admittedly was shaky in the first inning after his teammates staked him to a 2-0 lead, giving up three runs off two walks and a hit batter – all with two outs – but he trusted the defense behind him and then held Hoover scoreless until the sixth. By the time the Bucs (19-10) scored again, the Jackets were leading 7-3.

Oxford was eliminated from advancing out of their three-team area when they lost twice to Chelsea last week, but they still have the final third of their season to complete. Since the Chelsea series, the Jackets’ focus has been on finishing strong for their two seniors, Jake Cook and Wilkins, and continuing to play the game hard.

“If the game decides to reward us, it will,” Oxford coach Wes Brooks said. “I think against Chelsea we outhit them and with bases loaded and runners on we hit some balls right at guys. Today, with runners on, we hit some line drives that found a hole. As long as you’re playing the game hard and playing it the right way, it’ll reward you when it gets ready to, and today it was ready to reward us.”

The Jackets play one game Tuesday, against Hendersonville, Tenn., and complete pool play Wednesday against Helena and Spain Park.

“This is a tournament so this is kind of like our championship,” Brooks said. “That was my prayer as a coach, all our guys continue to play against the game and play compared to how good they were yesterday. Have that chip on your shoulder from Chelsea and play hard because that’s the only way to erase that bad taste. They came and played the game hard today.”

On the cover: Brody Syer drives in Oxford’s go-ahead run against Hoover with a grounder to the right side of the infield in the third inning.

Oxford 8, Austin 1

Oxford 005 001 2 — 8 10 2
Austin 100 000 0 — 1 3 2

DILLEN MILLER, Andy Hammond (5) and Derek Miller; BLAKE KUENNE, Phillips Garland (3) and Austin-Lee Screws. 2B: Andy Hammond (O). WP: Miller. LP: Kuenne.

Oxford 12, Hoover 5

Oxford 202 210 5 — 12 14 2
Hoover 300 002 0 — 5 9 2

MASON WILKINS, Trey Hopper (6) and Derek Miller; JAKE THOMPSON, Bubba Williams (4), Christopher Vacarella (4), Noah Barron (7) and Trey Davis. 2B: Trey Hopper 2 (O); Reid Chandler (H). WP: Wilkins. LP: Thompson.

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