E.A. Sports Today

Historic homer

Lloyd hits first homer in Choccolocco baseball park as Oxford sweeps to run its winning streak to 18 games (12-0 in new park)

Nate Lloyd (C) heads to the clubhouse after Oxford put the finishing touches on its 8-5 win over Jacksonville. On the cover, Lloyd swings from the left side, where he hit the first home run at the Choccolocco Park signature baseball field. (Cover photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Nate Lloyd (C) heads to the clubhouse after Oxford put the finishing touches on its 8-5 win over Jacksonville. On the cover, Lloyd swings from the left side, where he hit the first home run at the Choccolocco Park signature baseball field. (Cover photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Al Muskewitz
East Albama Sports Today

OXFORD — Nate Lloyd figured somebody was going to get one out of the signature baseball field at Choccolocco Park. It was inevitable, but it was taking some time.

When the Oxford players first got into the park, the sheer size of it led many to think that even though there was power on the roster it was going to be a lot harder to get one out of there than it was in their old park. And after the first few games without any coming close, that notion grew.

Almost a month passed and no one seriously threatened to put one out. A couple shots would bounce off the wall, but getting one over was a different challenge entirely.

Fate smiled on Lloyd Saturday. The Oxford junior third baseman hit the first home run out of the baseball park at Choccolocco Park and it helped the Yellow Jackets continue their winning ways in their new home.

The 10th-ranked Yellow Jackets jumped out early to beat Gadsden City 4-2 and then came from behind twice to beat Jacksonville 8-5 in the game that featured Lloyd’s historic homer.

“We play on a lot of fields that are about like this,” Oxford coach Wes Brooks said. “About the first five games the wind was blowing in. (Friday) night with the wind blowing out, Etowah’s 3- and 4-hole guys hit a couple deep balls that got over outfielders’ heads for doubles and I thought somebody was going to hit one out then.

“It’s always cool to be the first. That first home run, everybody will always say it was Nate Lloyd forever.”

It was the fifth inning and Aaron Bragg had just come into the game for Jacksonville. Lloyd took the reliever’s first pitch over the right-field fence to give the Yellow Jackets (22-3) an 8-3 lead.

The Jackets have hit several balls since moving into the Park that would have been long gone in their old home field, Bud McCarty Field, but either bounced to the fence or were caught. There was no doubt about this one.

Lloyd’s shot cleared the fence between the right-field foul pole and the light pole; it’s 375 in the gaps here. Field workers recovered the ball on a drainage swale about 30 feet behind the wall. It was his first home run in two years.

His teammates signed the ball and presented to him in the clubhouse after the game.

“It was a pretty special moment in my life, a special moment for this team, a special moment for this whole community,” Lloyd said. “I had seen him warm up so I knew he wasn’t really a hard thrower … so I knew I was going to have to sit back and wait on it and he just threw me a good pitch to hit.”

After hitting only one homer a year ago, the Yellow Jackets have made it a point of emphasis to increase their bat and ball speed. Lloyd is among the team leaders in both categories – 95 mph bat speed, 93 mph ball exit speed.

Humorously, he missed the plate coming home and had to turn around and tag it for the blast to become official.

“I didn’t know I missed it, but Jacob Sears told me and I went back and tagged it,” he said. “I was pretty pumped up. It was a special moment.”

Teammate Brody Syer came close to beating Lloyd to the punch in the Gadsden City game, but his fifth-inning shot off Nicolas Warsham hit off the right-field fence between the right-field light pole and the flag pole. Syer wound up with a triple that drove home the Yellow Jackets’ final run of the game.

“I thought his was gone, to be honest,” Lloyd said. “As soon as he hit it, I was like, ‘Get outta here.’”

The Jackets have now won 18 in a row and are 12-0 at Choccolocco Park. Brooks strives to keep his team focused on winning the next pitch, but the community is noticing the streak.

It’s getting beyond a simple streak this thing the Yellow Jackets are building in their home park.

“As a coach you don’t want to take away from the preparation and what they’re doing, but, yeah, there is some magic going on,” Brooks said. “If you ask me right now in a clutch game, if it’s 6-6 in the sixth inning, would you rather be playing at Choccolocco or any other park in the state, I’d rather be playing at Choccolocco because of our belief. We’ve got something going.”

Piedmont 9, White Plains 1

PIEDMONT — Payton Young went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and Easton Kirk pitched six strong innings for the Bulldogs.

Kirk allowed three hits, an unearned run and struck out six. He also had two hits at the plate, while Derrick Baer and Jacob Goss each drove in a pair of runs. The Bulldogs scored four in the home first and never looked back.

John Morgan had two hits for the Wildcats.

Jacob Sears (11) steals third ahead of the tag of Jacksonville's Tae Loud early in their game Saturday. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Jacob Sears (11) steals third ahead of the tag of Jacksonville’s Tae Loud early in their game Saturday. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

SATURDAY’S BASEBALL LINESCORES

Oxford 4, Gadsden City 2

Gadsden City 000 000 2 — 2 4 2
Oxford 002 110 x — 4 3 1

WP: Brody Syer. LP: Nicolas Warsham. 2B: David Minton (G). 3B: Brody Syer (O).

Oxford 8, Jacksonville 5

Jacksonville 201 002 0 — 5 6 1
Oxford 202 130 x — 8 12 3

WP: Trey Hopper. LP: Kane Aaron. 2B: Austin Lackey (J), Brennan McCullough (O). 3B: Mak Curry (J), Colin Casey (J). HR: Nate Lloyd (O).

Piedmont 9, White Plains 1

White Plains 000 010 0 — 1 4 2
Piedmont 400 410 x — 9 9 3

WP: Easton Kirk. LP: Colby McClendon.

Brody Syer threw seven strong innings and nearly hit the first home run at Choccolocco Park in Oxford's win over Gadsden City. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Brody Syer threw seven strong innings and nearly hit the first home run at Choccolocco Park in Oxford’s win over Gadsden City. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Nic Garmon races home with a run in Jacksonville's 5-1 win over Wellborn. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Nic Garmon races home with a run in Jacksonville’s 5-1 win over Wellborn. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Blake Hanson gingerly makes it across the plate with Wellborn's only run in a 5-1 loss to Jacksonville. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Blake Hanson gingerly makes it across the plate with Wellborn’s only run in a 5-1 loss to Jacksonville. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)



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