E.A. Sports Today

Coming into his own

Staley’s re-invented McLaughlin sharp in first varsity start

Saturday’s “Experience”
Staley (Mo.) 7, Moody 1
Staley (Mo.) 14, Oxford 3
Vestavia Hills 10, Munford 0
Vestavia Hills 17, Moody 4
Oxford 13, Munford 3

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Braedyn McLaughlin’s transformation into a major-college (and beyond) pitcher took another major step forward Saturday morning.

The Staley (Mo.) junior right-hander made his first varsity start and pitched four innings of no-hit ball before encroaching on his pitch limit and got the Falcons started on an eventual 7-1 win over Moody in the Choccolocco Park Spring Break Experience.

McLaughlin, already verbally committed to Missouri, looked nothing like the player who was just a position player as a sophomore. In the offseason he invested in a personal trainer, dropped some 40 pounds and picked up about 10 mph on his fastball.

It’s all part of the “real big changes” that have taken place in his personal approach. He had gotten to a point where he didn’t know if he wanted to play anymore. Now, his baseball future is white-light bright, maybe even draftable by his senior year.

“He just made a 360-degree turn,” Staley coach Dave Wilson said. “He has been so focused this year. I think his upside is tremendous. Now it’s just a matter of mound time and I think every outing he’ll get better and better.”

McLaughlin struck out the first two batters he faced Saturday and fanned three in the game. He walked four, but had only one runner reach second base.

He was consistently throwing 84-85 on his fastball, topping out at 87 — he hit 92 in the Falcons’ tryouts — and those who saw his breaking ball up closest said it was in the nasty range where you couldn’t see the spin.

“I think I threw pretty good,” McLaughlin said. “I think I just need to limit the walks and I think if I just dial it in a little bit more I can do it. There’s definitely work to be made. I just have to keep on working.”

His showing gave the Falcons another good outing from their starters for a team that hadn’t played a game this season until they got here. They gave up only eight runs in their four games this weekend. Their starters gave up 12 hits, four earned runs and struck out 18 in 16-1/3 innings.

“We feel like we’ve got a lot of good arms, but for a lot of them it’s their first year (on) varsity,” Wilson said. “But as the year goes on that’s going to be a big strength for us.”

The Falcons wrapped up their Experience by putting on their hitting shoes, run-ruling a host Oxford team whose players had prom the night before, 14-3. They went 3-1 on the visit and will go back to Kansas City, Wilson said, confident “we can compete with the top teams in our area.”

Wilson said the team enjoyed the experience here, loved the facility and want to come back, perhaps with some of the better teams from their area in tow.

“The whole experience overall was outstanding,” he said. “We’ve got some teams in our area that are really good, some big schools, they will want to come here, too. I’ll go back and tell those coaches you’ve got to go down there; unbelievable experience.

“We pick our favorite spots and about every 2-3 years we just keep jumping here, jumping there and then come back to it so the kids get to see a different experience each time, but this would be a no-brainer. I’ve been doing these trips for a long time now and this is probably one of the best experiences we’ve had.”

Oxford, meanwhile, shook its post-prom fog in its second game, bouncing back from the loss to Staley to run-rule Munford 13-3 in five innings.

They broke the game open with a seven-run fourth inning. They sent 12 men to the plate against three Munford pitchers in the inning. Garrett Heard had two hits in the innings and Jacob Sears delivered a bases-loaded two-run double. The Jackets were 4-for-4 with a walk with the bases loaded in the inning.

The Oxford-Saks game scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday was postponed until Monday 4 p.m. The postponement will force Saks to play three games Monday and Oxford to play a pair.

Staley 7, Moody 1
Staley 000 313 0 — 7 8 0
Moody 000 010 0 — 1 2 4

WP: Mason Davis. LP: Christian Smith. Hits – Staley: Rod Criss, Isaac Esquilin, John Rayborn, Michael Burdick, Amos Healy 3; Moody: Ryan Foster, Ben Vowell. RBIs – Staley: Isaac Esquilin 2, Jacob Wilson, Amos Healy, Wyatt Farkas; Moody: Ryan Foster.

Staley 14, Oxford 3
Staley 330 503 — 14 13 4
Oxford 200 100 — 3 6 3

WP: Braedyn McLaughlin. LP: Brantley Bargerhuff. 2B: Keast (S), Brody Syer (O). Hits – Staley: Rod Criss 3, Jake Wilson, John Rayburn 3, Michael Burdick 2, Amos Healy, Aaron Keast 2, Jackson Dearinfelt; Oxford: Brody Syer, Jarin Turner, Jacob Sears 2, Caden Higgins, Derek Miller. RBIs – Staley: Rod Criss 2, Isaac Equilin, John Rayburn 2, Michael Burdick 2, Amos Healy, Aaron Keast, Jackson Dearinfelt, Davis Platt; Oxford: Jarin Turner, Jacob Sears, Judd Moore.

Vestavia Hills 10, Munford 0
Munford 000 000 — 0 3 6
Vestavia 341 101 — 10 13 0

WP: Colton Lewis. LP: Marshall Clark. 3B: D.J. Steele (V), Ross Covington (V). Hits – Munford: Drew Harkins, Nick Fisher, Lance Ford; Vestavia: Drew Stockton 2, Christian Cusiano 2, D.J. Steele 2, Ross Covington 2, Jack Mason, Manning Owen 2, Ethan Guidry 2. RBIs – Vestavia: Christian Cusiano 2, Colton Lewis, D.J. Steele, Ross Covington 3.

Oxford 13, Munford 3
Munford 100 20 — 3 5 1
Oxford 113 71 — 13 9 2

WP: Wesley Sparks. LP: Dawson Strickland. 2B: Jacob Sears (O). Hits – Munford: Matt Campbell, Marshall Clark 2, Dakota Green, Drew Hawkins; Oxford: Brennan McCullough, Jacob Sears, Caden Higgins, Jack Peavey 2, Heyden Lindsey, Carson Lindsey, Garrett Heard 2. RBIs – Munford: Matt Campbell, Marshall Clark; Oxford: Brennan McCullough, Jarin Turner, Jacob Sears 2, Caden Higgins, Jack Peavey 2, Carson Lindsey 2, Garrett Heard.

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