E.A. Sports Today

End of the line

Oxford falls to Cullman in third game of quarterfinals series; bummed now, but like what future holds

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

CULLMAN – The players milled around outside the dugout after the game embracing one another and looking for the seniors, who laid the foundation for the road they’re about to travel going forward. It’s the kind of things teams do when their season comes to an end.

Oxford’s bid for a baseball state title ended Saturday in an 8-5 setback to Cullman in a winner-take-all Game 3 of their Class 6A quarterfinal series. The Bearcats advance to play Southside in the state semifinals. The Yellow Jackets immediately start making plans for a future they’re confident is a bright one.

“We knew it was going to be a battle,” senior shortstop Austin Bolander said. “We knew we’d have to make every play. Every out mattered. Every pitch mattered. They just made more plays and got more hits than us in the end.

“It was a good series, it was just they beat us. We gave it our all, they gave it their all and we left our heart on the field. We gave it our best.”

The Yellow Jackets (38-11) wanted to strike first, but they fell behind 4-0 in the first inning as Cullman’s first six batters all reached safely. Many teams would have been done at that early point, but the Jackets fought back to tie the game in the fourth and briefly took a one-run lead in the top of the fifth before the Bearcats scored three in the home half to take the lead for good.

Cullman loaded the bases in the fifth on two singles and a walk. The Bearcats scored the tying and go-ahead runs on infield outs – second baseman Trey Hopper made a really nice play to keep one of the balls in the infield and get an out — and added another run on a single by Caleb Lipsey.

“It’s frustrating going down 4-0 in the first inning, but our team is one that is going to battle back and finish,” Bolander said. “We’re never out of it until that last out. They knew they had to get that before we were done.”

The Jackets threatened again in the sixth. Brennan McCullough ripped a one-out double – his second of the game – and got to third with two outs, but couldn’t get home.

“It’s all about what we do next,” Oxford coach Wes Brooks said. “E plus R equals O – event plus response equals outcome. This was an event and now it’s how we respond to it. We have to grown from it and learn from it and become better from it.

“I think our program took a step forward. We’re putting some pieces to the puzzle, I like our chances in the future.”

Cullman 8, Oxford 5
Oxford 010 310 0 – 5 5 0
Cullman 4 00 031 x – 8 9 2
WP – Will Morrison. LP – Trey Hopper. 2B – Brennan McCullough (O) 2, Jacob Heatherly (C).

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