E.A. Sports Today

A humbling experience

Oxford drops pair in Friday’s Choccolocco Park Spring Break Experience

McKinley Erves (14) slides into second base ahead of the tag of Oxford’s Caden Higgins with a double that started Sparkman’s three-run first inning. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Saturday’s schedule
Signature Field
Spring Garden vs. Etowah, 10 a.m.
Cedar Bluff vs. Ohatchee, 1 p.m.
BB Field 1
Oxford vs. Weaver, 10 a.m.
Oxford vs. Spring Garden, 1 p.m.
BB Field 2
Auburn vs. White Plains, 10 a.m.
Auburn vs. Etowah, 1 p.m.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Wes Brooks called it a “humbling” experience, and he wasn’t talking about the custodial work he was doing in front of the Sparkman dugout after the game.

Oxford lost its two games in the Choccolocco Park Spring Break Experience Friday, falling to Etowah 9-2 and the Senators 6-2.

They are the first games the sixth-ranked Yellow Jackets have lost since dropping their Experience opener to Staley (Mo.) last Saturday.

“I think this was a humbling night,” Brooks said.

In both Friday games their opponents struck early. Etowah scored four in the second off Brennan McCullough and Sparkman scored three in the first against Jarin Turner, and late in both games the Jackets had two runners on base and couldn’t get the big hit to spark a rally.

Three Sparkman pitchers held Oxford to two hits — doubles by Brody Syer and Nathan Lloyd. Senators starter Carter Vickers allowed the Jackets one base runner through three innings and one hit through five.

The Jackets scored their two runs in the sixth, chasing Vickers in the process. Syer doubled and scored when the Senators misplayed Brennan McCullough’s grounder to first, and Nate Lloyd scored on a wild ball four to Jacob Sears.

Brooks is hoping this “humbling” experience will eventually have benefits for his team in the “seven-week grind” to follow.

“We need games like that in order to win a championship and we need to be able to fight back,” he said. “Sparkman’s a championship team, Etowah’s a championship team. In order for us to be a championship team in May we’re going to need to come back from games like that.

“During the spring break we play all different types of teams, but you’ve got to throw some teams in there that if you’re not playing your A-game you’re going to get your butt beat and both Etowah (5A No. 6) and Sparkman (7A No. 8) are like that.”

The Jackets wrap up their experience Saturday with games against Spring Garden and Weaver, looking to find, among other things, some answers for the bottom of their lineup.

“All in all,” Brooks said, “good week so far.”

Sparkman 6, Oxford 2
Sparkman 302 100 0 — 6 9 2
Oxford 000 002 0 — 2 2 1

WP: Carter Vickers. LP: Jarin Turner. 2B: Foster (S), Erves (S), Brody Syer (O), Nathan Lloyd (O). Hits – Sparkman: McKinley Erves 2, Reid Powers, Andrew Stemple 2, Garrett Bodine 2, Trevor Shelton, Jacob Foster; Oxford: Brody Syer, Nathan Lloyd. RBIs – Sparkman: Andrew Stemple, Trevor Shelton, Jacob Foster.

Austin Young holds onto his hat as he flies around third to score a run for Etowah Friday. Young had three hits for the Blue Devils against Oxford. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Etowah 9, Oxford 2: The Blue Devils have gotten off to a good start in the Experience. Beating Oxford was their third win over a ranked opponent in as many games.

The Blue Devils scored four runs in the second inning with just one hit — Logan Steele’s bases-loaded single to open the scoring — and never looked back. The Yellow Jackets were charged with five errors in the game.

Austin Young went 3-for-3, while Noah Parris and Jacob Bobo had two hits apiece. Left-hander Cade Runyan pitched a complete game, striking out seven Brody Syer drove in both of Oxford’s runs.

“We’re beginning to hit the ball,” Etowah coach Larry Foster said. “We haven’t hit the ball all year long until last week. Once we start hitting the ball, the pitching we’ve got we can make it tough on some folks. This kind of stuff you’re doing now, it just builds confidence in your players, in your team, when you go out and score like we’ve scored.

“Right now we’re probably playing as good as we can play and that’s something we’re going to have to work on keeping up.”

Etowah 9, Oxford 2
Etowah 040 200 3 — 9 10 0
Oxford 001 000 1 — 2 6 5

WP: Cade Runyan. LP: Brennan McCullough. 2B: Brody Syer (O), Caden Higgins (O). 3B: Jacob Bobo (E). Hits – Etowah: Noah Parrish 2, Jacob Bobo 2, Austin Young 3, Nathan Colegrove, Zach Jones, Logan Steele; Oxford: Brody Syer, Brennan McCullough, Jarin Turner, Caden Higgins 2, Garrett Heard. RBIs – Etowah: Eli Dunn, Noah Parrish, Jacob Bobo, David Rutledge, Nathan Colegrove, Logan Steele; Oxford: Brody Syer 2.

Chez Hulsey’s relief outing was one of the brightest spots in White Plains’ victory. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

White Plains 11, Cedar Bluff 0: The Wildcats scored 11 runs in the first inning against the pitching-depleted top-ranked team in Class 1A. Charlie Huey had a three-run double and Peyton Morgan had a bases-loaded triple.

“I was proud of the way we came out and jumped on them early,” White Plains coach Wes Henderson said. “It’s easy to fold after a game like we had (Thursday) against Etowah and I thought we came out swinging the bats really well.”

Not to be overlooked in the big run-scoring game was the pitching performance of Chez Hulsey. He came in with one out in the second and, “trusting in the work,” finished the five-inning game, giving up two hits, walking one and striking out four. He faced one batter over his minimum.

“That was actually the bright point of the game,” Henderson said. “We came out swinging but Chez did a good job throwing strikes. That was good. That’s what we needed. It just gives him confidence, which is what he needs. He’s a guy who can get it done on the mound, he just doesn’t have the confidence in himself. We have confidence in him.”

Cleburne County 11, Weaver 4: Damian Benefield broke a 4-4 tie with a two-run homer and the Tigers scored five in the seventh to put the game out of reach.

It was Benefield’s fourth homer of the season and came after he made an adjustment at the plate after grounding out to third in his previous at-bat.

“The one I hit today pumped us back up,” Benefield said. “We were kind of down and were struggling a little bit on defense, so that helped us get back up.”

Ohatchee’s Chase Widgeon delivers a pitch in the Spring Garden game. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Spring Garden 1, Ohatchee 0: The Panthers put together three straight hits in the second inning to score the only run of the game and spoil a nice pitching performance by Chase Widgeon.

It was the second 1-0 game the Indians lost this week and their sixth one-run loss of the season. They had the tying run in scoring position in the seventh but couldn’t bring it around.

Cristian Crider pitched the shutout for Spring Garden. Jesse Sellers had three hits for Ohatchee.

Jacksonville 12, Gadsden City 2: Jacksonville ace Colin Casey gave up one hit and struck out four in four innings and drove in two runs with a pair of hits. The Golden Eagles carried a 3-1 lead into the home fourth, then sent 10 batters to the plate in scoring five runs. Brant Deerman had two hits and Tay Loud drove in two runs without benefit of a hit, including a bases-loaded walk that ended the game.

Jacksonville 12, Gadsden City 2
Gadsden City 000 11 — 2 2 4
Jacksonville 210 54 — 12 6 0

WP: Casey. LP: Gray. 2B: Gray (G). Hits – Gadsden City: Bradfoel, Gray; Jacksonville: Glass, Deerman 2, Casey 2, Shook. RBIs – Gadsden City: Sparks, Bradfoel; Jacksonville: Casey 2, Lackey, Curry, Shook, Loud 2.

Oxford’s Tyetus Smith-Lindsey dives back into first ahead of the tag of Etowah first baseman David Rutledge. To see more B.J. Franklin photos from Friday’s games at Choccolocco Park, go to www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

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