E.A. Sports Today

MVP for life

Oxford beats Alexandria for another County Tournament title, shortstop Higgins named most valuable player

Tournament MVP Caden Higgins (4) and Oustanding Offensive Player Brody Syer (second from left) gather with some of their senior teammates after Oxford won another Calhoun County Baseball Tournament title. On the cover, Jarin Turner mobs Tate Adams (9) after Adams scored the clinching run in the 11-1 win. (Photos by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Caden Higgins has given a lot to play the sports he loves. Tuesday night, the games paid him back.

To say the three-sport athlete’s senior year of athletics at Oxford hasn’t been easy would be a classic understatement. He described the road he has traveled these last four months “long.”

He missed virtually all of the basketball season fighting complications associated with Crohn’s disease, endured two lengthy hospitalizations and three surgeries, and continues to take medication six times a day for the condition through a pair of ports he wears beneath his uniform still today.

When he did come back to play baseball, he pulled quadriceps muscles in both legs the first day and was only cleared to return to the diamond from that the morning of the Calhoun County Tournament semifinals.

You need to know that history to understand just how meaningful it was that the senior shortstop was named most valuable player Tuesday after the top-seeded Yellow Jackets won another county tournament title with an 11-1 five-inning victory over No. 2 Alexandria.

“I think that’s awesome,” Oxford coach Wes Brooks said. “When you’re living right and doing the right thing off the field, the game knows. That was the game of life rewarding Caden Higgins for what he went through for about a month of uncertainty.”

Interestingly, Higgins won the tournament’s biggest award despite not playing in all the Yellow Jackets’ games. He didn’t play in their tournament opener, but he went 6-for-8 in the two he played. He scored three runs and drove in the first two runs of the title game with a double. He was on base all four times he batted against the Valley Cubs and seven of eight plate appearances in the tournament.

He would have had the walk-off hit in the fifth inning Tuesday had Alexandria pitcher Dylan DiGangi not gotten a glove on his hot two-out shot to the box and kept it in the infield to keep Tate Adams from scoring. Adams eventually scored the clinching run from third when DiGangi bounced a pitch in the dirt that got away from catcher Mitch Welch.

“It really means a lot,” Higgins said of the MVP award. “Not being able to play really makes you appreciate being able to play. Sitting on the sidelines and watching your guys out there having fun playing the game you love and you’re not being able to do it, it kind of opens your eyes and kind of humbles you, brings you down to earth. Just being able to play with them means a lot to me.”

For the longest time this winter there were doubts Higgins would play anything again. His health odyssey began the day of the Yellow Jackets’ final football game against Clay-Chalkville when he woke up with what he thought was a stomach bug. He played that night, but it turned out to be something much more sinister and life-changing.

He spent eight days in the hospital in Anniston and the Christmas holidays in the hospital in Birmingham. It took that long for doctors to find the cells they needed in order to diagnose Crohn’s. He didn’t play sports again until a few minutes on his basketball Senior Night.

“It was long,” Higgins said. “But I want to say it helped me more than it hurt me because once you go through that much adversity like that, fighting through, it kind of makes you tougher, a whole lot tougher. It makes you see things a whole lot different than you did before, cherish more. Don’t take anything for granted because in one second, one minute, it could be gone.”

Oxford’s Brody Syer was named the tournament’s most valuable offensive player; he had two doubles in the title game and then committed to play collegiately at West Georgia. Alexandria’s Jalen Borders took home the defensive player award.

Caden Higgins (4) steps in right before ripping the two-run double in the first inning that sent Oxford on its way to an 11-1 win and propelled Higgins to MVP honors. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

To see a photo gallery from the championship game, visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

Championship Game

Oxford 11, Alexandria 1
Alexandria 001 00 — 1 3 5
Oxford 231 41 – 11 12 2

WP: Brody Syer. LP: Tanner Mize.
2B: Carson Lindsey (O), Brody Syer 2 (O), Jarin Turner (O), Caden Higgins (O), Cayden Sparks (O), Tate Adams (O). RBIs – Oxford: Brody Syer, Tate Adams 2, Caden Higgins 2, Jarin Turner 2, Cayden Sparks.

All-Tournament Team: Dalton Hamby, Weaver; Colton Clark, Jacksonville; Drew Bonds, Pleasant Valley; Blake Morris, Jacksonville; Justin Shaw, Alexandria; Andrew Norred, White Plains; Tate Adams, Oxford; Kevin Williamson, Ohatchee; Mason Mohon, Piedmont; Nate McCallum, Alexandria; Jarin Turner, Oxford; Mitch Welch, Alexandria; Austin McQueen, Wellborn; T.J. Fairs, Piedmont; Brennan McCullough, Oxford; Hayden Green, Oxford.
Outstanding Offensive Player: Brody Syer, Oxford.
Outstanding Defensive Player: Jalen Borders, Alexandria.
Most Valuable Player: Caden Higgins, Oxford.

Brody Syer went past his pitch count, but he gave Oxford three strong innings. He got the win and was named the outstanding offensive player of the tournament. He also committed to play baseball at West Georgia. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

Alexandria went after Oxford at the start with knuckleball pitcher Tanner Mize. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

Oxford’s Carson Lindsey celebrates his double in the third inning. The Yellow Jackets hit seven doubles in their 11-1 win. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

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