E.A. Sports Today

Jackets slam J’ville

McCullough’s grand slam highlights Oxford’s win over Jacksonville in county semifinals

Oxford’s Tate Adams slides into third base with his two-run triple in the first inning. On the cover, Brennan McCullough rounds third on his way to scoring the second run. (Photos by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — The last time Brennan McCullough got this much attention after a game at Choccolocco Park he was walking off the with MVP of last year’s Calhoun County Tournament.

The Oxford first baseman hit his first career grand slam Monday and junior right-hander Jarin Turner took a no-hitter into the fifth inning as top-seeded Oxford slammed Jacksonville 12-6 Monday in this year’s Calhoun County Baseball Tournament semifinals at The Big House.

Oxford’s Brennan McCullough hit his first career home run Monday night and it was a big blast — a grand slam. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

The Yellow Jackets (8-3) will play second-seeded Alexandria (5-5) in Tuesday’s 6 p.m. championship game in a game McCullough compared to the Iron Bowl where “all bets are off.”

As expected, after the game the media converged on the field to talk to McCullough about his big hit.

“You feel like a big-leaguer when you’ve got these guys talking to you,” McCullough said.

The lefthanded-hitting McCullough has been working on pulling the ball since last year’s tournament and launched his slam to right in the third inning to cap a six-run inning and give the Jackets a 12-0. It also was his first varsity home run and may have been the product of extra swings in the cage with his dad Keith the day before.

“Saturday I didn’t have a lot of good at-bats (going 0-for-3); I just didn’t feel good at the plate,” he said. “We went to the cage and my dad just told me I’m strong enough to hit it and I’m strong enough to get it out of here nice and easy and I fouled off a pitch right before that and coach (Wes) Brooks told me the exact same thing.

“So I just took a deep breath and he gave me a pitch I could get the barrel on and I just flipped it out and it got out of here somehow. It felt good (to homer) just to get the monkey off my back because I was starting to hear it. Some of my buddies were talking and it felt good because it was starting to eat at me.”

Turner wasn’t at his best on the cold night, but he kept the fastball-hitting Golden Eagles off balanced with a good breaking ball.

He lost his no-hitter on Colton Clark’s slow chop to short with one out in the fifth, the first of two infield singles in the inning. The Alabama commitment struck out eight, but walked three and hit four. The Golden Eagles touched him for two runs in the fourth on a pair of walks, a sacrifice and a two-out error.

Still, the only ball Jacksonville hit to the outfield against him was Clark’s fly to center leading off the game.

“Obviously, the weather is always something that plays a part, especially when last week it was like 75 and this week it’s freezing cold,” Turner said. “Other than that, I was struggling locating. I was flying open a lot and some balls were sliding out; that’s why I kept missing up and in on a lot of those hitters. I heard people talking about (the no-hitter), but I didn’t really think about it.”

The Jackets gave Turner a 6-0 lead in the first inning, sending 10 batters to the plate. Tate Adams had the big hit, a two-run triple to open the scoring. Hayden Green drove in a run with an infield out, Turner helped his cause with an RBI single, Trey Higgins doubled home another and an error on Cayden Sparks’ grounder plated another.

“The energy at the beginning of the game was unbelievable,” Brooks said.

Shortstop Caden Higgins had three hits for the Jackets. He was cleared to play baseball by the trainers only a few hours before the game.

Oxford 12, Jacksonville 6
Jacksonville 000 210 3 – 6 5 2
Oxford 606 000 x – 12 11 1

WP: Jarin Turner. LP: Dylan Murphy.
2B: Trey Higgins (O). 3B: Caden Higgins (O), Tate Adams (O). HR: Brennan McCullough (O). RBIs – Jacksonville: Josh Glass, Kyle Seegar, Brandon Charping 2; Oxford: Brody Syer 2, Brennan McCullough 4, Tate Adams 2, Jarin Turner, Trey Higgins.

Oxford right-hander Jarin Turner kept Jacksonville off-balance with a good breaking ball and took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

To see a gallery of photos from both semifinal games visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

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