E.A. Sports Today

Oxford splits

Yellow Jackets believe they have the momentum after taking Game Two from Homewood to set up Saturday’s 6A showdown

By Kyle Parmley
Special to East Alabama Sports Today

HOMEWOOD – One good, one bad is how both teams could describe the action on Friday night.

Oxford and Homewood split their first two games in the opening round of the Class 6A state baseball playoffs, with Homewood jumping out to an early lead and cruising to a 7-1 victory in the first game and the Yellow Jackets following the same script in the nightcap 12-1.

The teams will play the series-deciding third game Saturday at 11 a.m., also at Homewood.

“Any time you play a playoff series, the most important game is the second game,” said Oxford coach Wes Brooks. “If you lose the first one and win the second one, obviously, you’ve got momentum. If you win the first one and lose the second one and have to go to Game 3, they’ve got momentum.

“We’ve got momentum coming into tomorrow.”

Oxford 12, Homewood 1: The Patriots’ pitchers had trouble finding the strike zone, and Oxford capitalized in a big way.

The game was called after five innings, but the Yellow Jackets needed just three innings to do all of their damage. Three Patriot arms combined to surrender seven walks in those first three innings, and six of them came around to score.

If you add the three hit batsmen to that total – all of whom scored – Oxford scored nine of its 12 runs by way of reaching without putting the ball in play.

“We had trouble throwing strikes, and they’re too good,” Homewood coach Doug Gann said. “In the playoffs, if you don’t throw strikes, you don’t give yourselves much of a chance. They can swing the bats well. When you give them freebies like that and they hit the ball well, runs are going to score, and they scored a bunch in the first three innings.”

Homewood starting pitcher Luke Hindman walked the first batter he faced before surrendering a two-run homer to Nate Lloyd. Hindman was replaced by Mike McClung four batters later, and Reese Howard drove home a third run on an infield single.

Oxford put six runs on the board in the second. Brody Syer and Jack Peavey each knocked two-run singles. Howard drove in another run on a single, but was caught stealing to end the second inning with Oxford leading 9-0.

Lloyd’s two-run double and Syer’s sacrifice fly in the third capped the Jackets’ scoring. Homewood notched its only run of the game in the top of the third on an RBI single by Ben Teel.

Oxford leadoff hitter Caden Higgins walked and scored each of his plate appearances in the contest. Lloyd scored three runs himself, as he went 2-for-2 with the homer and double to go along with a walk.

Oxford started Jarin Turner on the mound in the second game, but he was pulled after 25 pitches — to preserve his availability for Game 3, presumably. He went 2 1/3 innings, allowing just one hit and one walk with a pair of strikeouts. Lloyd went the rest of the way.

Homewood used five pitchers in the contest, but Gann said the Patriots would go with a combination of John Marc Mullins and Jacob Fitts to start Game 3.

Homewood 7, Oxford 1: Mistakes proved the difference. Oxford committed three errors in the game, and Homewood was all too willing to pounce on every opportunity.

The Patriots held a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, when a two-out error allowed Mullins to reach as Ryan Williams came around to score from second. Mullins did not record a hit in the game, but reached base and scored three times.

Starting pitcher Austin Spiers was next up for Homewood and stroked a double to bring home Mullins and give the Patriots a 5-1 edge.

Homewood added the final two runs of the game in the sixth, as an errant pickoff throw allowed runners to advance to second and third, and Teel’s single brought both around to score. Teel went 2-for-4.

Spiers was great on the mound for Homewood, as he hurled the complete seven innings, surrendering just three hits, a run on a wild pitch, and a walk with three strikeouts.

“It always helps when your pitcher is pounding the strike zone,” Gann said. “Austin did a nice job. He gave up three hits and he was around the plate all day. Our guys were into the game.”

Spiers finished with a big night at the plate as well, going 2-for-2 with two walks and RBI doubles in the first and fourth innings.

Homewood got to Oxford starter Brody Syer from the get-go, as Syer surrendered a walk, double, single and double to the first four batters, and the Patriots put three early runs on the board. Syer went five innings, allowing five hits and five runs (three earned), with five walks and four strikeouts. Brantley Bargerhuff pitched the sixth for the Jackets.

“Winner takes all tomorrow, and the team that pitches the best will be the one that wins,” Gann said. “The teams that pitched the best today are the teams that won.“

Kyle Parmley is Sports Editor of The Homewood Star

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