E.A. Sports Today

May days Oxford’s Grace period

Senior drills two homers in Oxford’s area title-clinching win, has three extra-base hits, five RBIs in May

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Senior Grace Mitchell may have earned the nickname “Miss May” for the way she’s helping third-ranked Oxford make its way through the post-season.

Mitchell ended Tuesday night’s nine-inning 1-0 win over second-ranked Chelsea with a double and then catapulted the Yellow Jackets to the area tournament championship with two home runs in an 11-0 rout over the Hornets Thursday at Choccolocco Park.

The field with college dimensions was no match for Mitchell as she drove in four runs in the win. She hit a towering homer to left in her first at-bat and blasted a two-run shot in the fifth. She has two homers, a double and five RBIs in May games.

“It was a dream game,” Mitchell said. “It is just hard to believe. It was just so awesome. I was just seeing the ball good, and the ball just kept on going. It just felt awesome to be able to help our team.”

Mitchell had plenty of long-ball help as Kaylynn Garrett drilled a home run in the fifth inning, eighth-grader Bailey Clark hit the fence with a double, Haley Lyner had a triple and Taylor Ellison and Ashleigh Reaves both doubled.

The Jackets pounded out 10 hits and knocked Chelsea ace Sarah Cespedes out after two innings. Cespedes had pitched 25 innings in the area tournament, including earlier in the night as the Hornets beat Pell City to reach the championship game.

Oxford (36-12) got brilliant pitching performances again from Rylee Waldrep and JoJo Skinner as they continue to alternate pitching to nine batters at a time. They walked only one, struck out 16 Chelsea batters and allowed only eight hits in 16 innings of work in the two playoff games.

“I really like this rotation,” Waldrep said. ”I think it keeps the other team off balance and it helps our team — and I want to do anything that helps our team.”

Eighth-grade catcher Sara Howell drew a couple of walks, had another stolen base and threw out a Hornet runner trying to steal second base.

”We have been working really hard on everything,” Howell said. “My hitting was not so good tonight and it has been a struggle at times trying to catch up to these pitchers as just an eighth grader, but I just keep trying to work as hard as I can.”

The Jackets head to the regionals next Thursday in Tuscaloosa where they hope to advance to their second straight state tournament in Montgomery the following week.

In the night’s first game, Chelsea battled back from an early three-run deficit to eliminate fourth-ranked Pell City from the playoffs 6-3. This is the most competitive area in the state and one good team was going to stay home.

Cespedes struggled in the first inning and the Hornets’ defense committed two errors, but she responded with six shutout innings the rest of the way.

On the cover: Grace Mitchell (R) gets congratulated by coach Wendy McKibbin after hitting a big home run in a game earlier this year. Mitchell hit two homers Thursday night. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

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