E.A. Sports Today

Striking thunder

Saturday baseball: Oxford puts together rallies to beat Spain Park, Arab; Adams, Syer take it out of park in Signature Field

Oxford’s Brennan McCullough (R) braces for a collision with Spain Park catcher John Kennington that didn’t really materialize to score the Yellow Jackets’ second run Saturday. (Photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

To see a photo gallery from the Oxford doubleheader, visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

Saturday’s Games
Clay Central 12, Weaver 10
Cleburne County 8, Springville 1
Etowah 7, Cleburne County 2
Jacksonville 11, Pleasant Valley 1
Ohatchee 7, White Plains 4
Ohatchee 16, Gaston 1
Oxford 10, Spain Park 1
Oxford 6, Arab 2
Saks 5, Clay Central 0
Weaver 5, Saks 4
Westbrook Christian 10, Pleasant Valley 0
Westbrook Christian 14, Jacksonville 5
White Plains 12, Gaston 0
Cherokee County 9, Piedmont 2
Anniston at Winterboro, noon
Wellborn vs. Geraldine at Ashville, 3:00
Wellborn at Ashville, 5:00

North-South Challenge
Athens Bible 14, Ragland 8
Hackleburg 8, Athens Bible 7
Decatur Heritage 10, Brantley 2
Hackleburg 7, Brantley 2
Ragland 4, Decatur Heritage 3

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – The next time you’re at an Oxford baseball game at Choccolocco Park and you see Yellow Jackets coach Wes Brooks pushing his hand up over his head during a lull in the action, don’t think he’s making a call to the bullpen.

Oh, he’s calling for something, all right, but it’s not a pitching change. It’s a signal to the announcer’s booth to play AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” and a call for the home crowd to get engaged because he senses “something big is about to happen.”

Twice during Saturday’s doubleheader Brooks gave the sign, the song rang out over the public address system, and both times the Yellow Jackets delivered in a big way.

Whether it be coincidence or magic, it brought about a six-run fifth inning in the first game that sealed a 10-1 victory over Spain Park and Hayden Green’s second win over a 7A team this week and in the nightcap it sparked a three-run rally – also in the fifth – that erased a two-run Arab lead and sent the Jackets to a 6-2 win.

After trying for two-plus seasons, Brody Syer finally got one out of Choccolocco Park’s Signature Field in Saturday’s game with Arab.

“It just builds everybody up and gets the energy up in the dugout and on the field and makes us pumped for the game and what’s about to happen,” said outfielder Carson Lindsey, who had a two-run single in the big inning against Spain Park. “All of our team has bought in and when he does that it helps get us focused and ready for the game. It’s just something that came along and he wanted to get everybody involved and it helped us out.”

Actually, Brooks introduced the idea at a preseason parent meeting in hopes to fostering a season-long rally cry with the crowd yelling “Jack-ets” when the song gets to “Thun-der”. Initially, it was supposed to be played before the start of the first and last innings, but Brooks has extended it to any dead-ball situation at a dramatic point in the game.

It hasn’t quite caught on, but now, after what it did for the Jackets (6-4) Saturday, it might become as popular around The Big House as the Rally Monkey or Tomahawk Chop.

Brooks called for it against Spain Park while the Jaguars were in the midst of a mound visit following Brennan McCullough’s one-out triple in the fifth. What followed was magical: Tate Adams tripled home McCullough, Green walked and Jarin Turner was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Lindsey hit a soft two-run single off the first pitch from sidearm reliever Will May, Cayden Sparks was hit by a pitch to reload the bases, Brantley Bargerhuff drove in a run with an infield out and Brody Syer ripped a two-run double.

“It just something in the moment we wanted to get some energy going in the dugout,” Adams said of the rally song. “The dugout plays a big role in our big innings and having our back, that’s probably just what it was.”

Adams had a single, triple and Oxford’s third homer at the Signature Field in its three years of operation and three RBIs. McCullough had two extra-base hits and Lindsey had three hits. Adams had a three-run double to put Oxford ahead in the Arab game after Brooks made the sign earlier in that inning.

“I’ve been a little cold here lately and just all the coaches and players supporting me I’ve got back in it today; I felt a lot better,” Adams said. “When I hit (the homer), it felt good off the bat. I was trying to get two (a double); I didn’t know it was going out until I saw it. It’s a pretty big ballpark.”

Tate Adams had a big doubleheader, going 4-for-6 with a homer, three-run double and six RBIs.

So big, in fact, he was only the second Oxford player to hit one out of the Signature Field since the Jackets started playing there. Interestingly, after two years with only two homers there, the Jackets hit two in one day as Syer hit one in the Arab game.

It turned out to be a pretty big game for Green, too. He pitched the first five innings, allowed three hits, an unearned run and struck out three in beating a 7A team for the second time this week. He no-hit Mountain Brook Monday night.

Green knew he was going to pitch some Saturday after throwing 74 pitches in his gem, but Brooks informed the senior right-hander of the start as the Yellow Jackets were getting off the bus after getting back home from their Friday night win at Jacksonville.

“That’s happened one other time in my career when I challenged a pitcher about beating two good teams in one week,” Brooks recalled. “I think it was Jacob Popham when I was at Wellborn and he got the win against Oxford and then started against Jacksonville and won that one; I was like there’s no way you can beat two teams like that in one week. I was thinking about that last year and I went to (Green) and said there’s no way you can beat two 7A schools twice in one week and he said I bet I can.”

“I like a challenge like that,” Green said. “I was pumped, I was ready for another win. I was ready to compete.”

Brooks summoned the magic of “Thunderstruck” in the fifth inning of the nightcap. It was right after Bergerhuff got a ball under a diving second baseman. Syer followed with a fly ball that was dropped in left field and then Arab misplayed Reese Howard’s bunt to load the bases. After McCullough lined out for the first out, Adams cleared the bases with a go-ahead double.

Right before Brooks gave the sign, the Jackets stole a run from the Knights thanks to an eagle-eyed reserve who was charting plays from the bench. The visitors appeared to have taken a 3-0 lead in the fifth on Will Hudson’s triple to right center, but Oxford senior first baseman Ethan Whitley noticed Arab runner Russell Brazelton missed the plate coming home on the hit. He alerted the coaches and the Jackets won the appeal.

It kept the score 2-0 and gave the Jackets an emotional boost going into their pivotal half of the inning.

“When you’ve got guys keeping charts and you get them bought in to saying ‘hey, find us a way to win a game,’ and who would’ve thought a guy on the bench either gave us a run or cost the other team from getting a run, that is like the best bench personality you could ever ask for as a coach,” Brooks said. “Because a guy not in the lineup – he could be pouting, he could on the end of the bench – he’s so focused on watching a bag … just doing something to help us win.”

The Jackets added three more in the sixth, capped by Brody Syer’s second home run in two days and first out of the Signature Field in three years of coming close. He hit one just as long at Jacksonville the night before.

“To me, when I hit a home run, I can tell as soon as it comes off the bat and that’s pretty much how it was,” Syer said. “I felt it off the bat. It barely got over, but it’s still a home run. I’ve been wanting one for a while, since my sophomore year. It’s a great feeling.”

Hayden Green beat a 7A team for the second time this week when he won Saturday’s first game against Spain Park. Green no-hit Mountain Brook on Monday.

NO-HITTER SALVAGES WP SPLIT: Noah Elder and Braxton Dopson combined on a five-inning no-hitter with 12 strikeouts in White Plains’ 12-0 victory over Gaston that salvaged the Wildcats a split on their day. They lost to Ohatchee 7-4 in their opener.

Elder worked the first three and struck out seven. He walked two, Gaston’s only bases runners, a pair of walks.

The Wildcats took control early with six runs in the first. Jaden Chatman, Jake Spivey, Andrew Norred, Andrew Cronan and Noah Elder had RBIs in the inning. Chatman had three RBIs in the game and Norred had two.

After beating White Plains, Ohatchee followed with a 16-1 win over Gaston.

SAKS SPLITS: Jaylen Childs threw a complete-game, five-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts and went 2-for-3 with an RBI at the plate as Saks blanked Clay Central 5-0 to salvage a split of the day. Harley Burgess also went 2-for-3 in the game.

The Wildcats lost an error-plagued first game to Weaver, 5-4. Ethan Moncus went 3-for-3 with three RBIs for the Bearcats. Dalton Hamby also had three hits for Weaver.

PIEDMONT FALLS: Ethan Johnson and Ian Edwards combined to drive in seven runs and held Piedmont to seven hits from the mound as Cherokee County battered the Bulldogs 9-2.

Johnson drove in four runs with a pair of doubles and Edwards went 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Edwards started on the mound and went the first two innings. Johnson finished, scattering six hits and striking out five.

Carson Garrett also had three hits for the Warriors, while Jy Lockridge went 2-for-2 with three runs scored. Taylor Morrow had two hits for Piedmont.

The Warriors didn’t do as well in heir other game, losing to Gadsden City 10-0 in a three-hit shutout by Baylor Partridge.

Oxford 10, Spain Park 1
Spain Park 000 010 0 – 1 4 1
Oxford 002 161 x – 10 13 2

WP: Hayden Green. LP: jarred Kennington. 2B: Sam Dozier (SP), Reese Howard (O), Brennan McCullough (O), Carson Lindsey (O), Brody Syer (O). 3B: Brennan McCullough (O), Tate Adams (O). HR: Tate Adams (O).

Oxford 6, Arab 2
Arab 010 010 0 – 2 7 3
Oxford 000 033 x – 6 10 1

WP: Brantley Bargerhuff. LP: John Michael Bales. 2B: Russell Brazelton (A), Brody Syer (O), Tate Adams (O), Trey Higgins (O). 3B: Will Hudson (A). HR: Nick Knighton (A), Brody Syer (O).

Weaver 5, Saks 4
Weaver 110 200 1 – 5 11 0
Saks 003 010 0 – 4 6 0

WP: Jadon Calhoun. LP: Harley Burgess.
2B: Drake Monroe (W), Kyle Goedde (S), Jaylen Childs (S). 3B: Dalton Hamby (W)

Saks 5, Clay Central 0
Saks 140 000 0 – 5 7 1
Clay Central 000 000 0 – 0 5 1

WP: Jaylen Childs. 2B: Harley Burgess (S), Jaylen Childs (S)

Cherokee County 9, Piedmont 2
Cherokee Co. 003 231 0 – 9 14 0
Piedmont 011 000 0 – 2 7 3

WP: Ethan Johnson. 2B: Ethan Johnson 2 (C), Jy Lockridge (C), T.J. Fairs (P).

Ohatchee 7, White Plains 4
White Plains 001 001 2 – 4 4 4
Ohatchee 000 133 x – 7 5 2

WP: Grayson Alward. LP: Brendan Roper.
2B: Noah Elder (W), Cade Williamson (O).

White Plains 12, Gaston 0
Gaston 000 00 – 0 0 2
White Plains 606 0x – 12 6 0

WP: Noah Elder. LP: Brown.
2B: Ben Rouse (W).

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