E.A. Sports Today

Jackets clip Cubs in finale

Oxford sends its seniors out a winner, ends Alexandria’s 20-game winning streak with unearned run in the eighth

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – If there is not another game played by the Oxford baseball team at Bud McCarty Field ever again, the final one there Tuesday will be remembered for a long time. It certainly will be by seniors Mason Wilkins and Jake Cook.

The Yellow Jackets wrapped up their season in a most joyous way, beating third-ranked playoff-bound Alexandria 9-8 in eight innings in what certainly was the last game of Wilkins and Cook’s high school careers and likely their final game in their on-campus facility.

The Jackets are scheduled to play all their regular-season games next season in the main stadium of the new Oxford Sports Complex. They are already making plans to play their Opening Day game in the new stadium against the Valley Cubs.

Oxford scored the winning run when Cubs dropped a pop up in the infield with two outs. The error allowed Austin Bolander to score his fourth run of the game from second base and snapped Alexandria’s 20-game winning streak.

“Emotions are just all over the place right now,” said Wilkins, the Jackets’ starting pitcher. “I’m sad. It’s the last game with one of the best teams in the world, just great teammates, great coaches.

“Out of all my high school starts, this will probably be the one I’ll most remember. They were a really good team hitting and defensively. I’m just glad my teammates made the plays behind me.”

The Jackets staked him to a 3-0 lead in the first highlighted by Sears’ two-run single. But the Valley Cubs (27-3) steadily chipped away and eventually took the lead in the fourth. Oxford tied the game 8-8 with two in the sixth, scoring the tying run on a wild pitch.

Bolander and Dillen Miller each had three hits for the Jackets. Chance Williams had three hits and three RBIs for the Valley Cubs.

After the game, Jackets coach Wes Brooks spent a few private moments with Wilkins and Cook out by the mound expressing his appreciation for all their contributions to the program.

Wilkins was lifted in the sixth inning of his final high school start. He gave way to Andy Hammond, who pitched 2 2-3 innings of one-hit shutout relief and was credited with the win. Cook went 1-for-2 with two walks and a run.

“The season didn’t turn out the way we expected or really wanted it to,” Cook said, “but it feels great just to beat just them, (for) it to be them the last game – if it is the last game at Bud McCarty – and beat them the way we did in extra innings like that and kind of wash away how we gave it up in the County Championship and ending the season on a good note somehow.”

The Yellow Jackets ended their season winning seven of their last nine after being eliminated from Class 6A playoff contention.

“You talk about beginning with an ending in mind and when you start you think about when you finish,” Brooks said. “When we realized we were out of the playoffs … we talked about it doesn’t matter what the score is, what our season is, what our future holds, you’ve got to finish.

“I texted all our coaches (Monday) night it’s hard to believe as well as we’re playing and the togetherness we’ve got right now tomorrow’s our last game. If we’re in the playoffs and don’t win it all, I have to have that meeting with those seniors and shed some tears and hug and stay at the ballpark. It’s uncommon to be able to finish the year like this and everybody be here fellowshipping and in a good mood.”

On the cover: Starting pitchers Taylor Shaddix (L) and Mason Wilkins warm up together before the start of Tuesday’s game.

Oxford 9, Alexandria 8 (8 inns.)

Alexandria 011 321 00 — 8 12 3
Oxford 300 122 01 — 9 13 1

Taylor Shaddix, Will Reaves (4), DALTON WARREN and Derrick Turner; Mason Wilkins, ANDY HAMMOND (6) and Derek Miller. 2B: Dalton Cobb 2 (A), Dalton Warren (A); Andy Hammond (O), Derek Miller (O). WP: Hammond. LP: Warren.

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