E.A. Sports Today

Trojans beat shift, Jackets

Hazel Green’s Magwood delivers opposite-field triple against the shift and sends Trojans past Oxford in Game 3

Oxford’s Caden Higgins (4) is all smiles after scoring the run that gave the Yellow Jackets a 4-1 lead in the Class 6A playoff game with Hazel Green. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – Every time Isaiah Magwood saw that big patch of open green out in right field his eyes grew wide as saucers. He had been wanting to go that way all series and Oxford’s defensive alignment kept enticing him.

All the Hazel Green senior had to do was get his bat on the ball and send it in that direction.

He had another chance at it with two on in the sixth inning of a tied Game 3 of their playoff series and this time he did make it work.

Hazel Green’s Isaiah Magwood beat the shift and delivered a two-run triple that gave his team a 6-4 lead.

After a somewhat awkward first swing trying to go the opposite way, Magwood coaxed a two-run triple into that open patch of outfield, snapping a 4-4 tie and sending the Trojans to a 6-5 victory that dashed the fourth-ranked Yellow Jackets’ hopes of advancing in the Class 6A playoffs from their own field.

“I was thinking I need to hit something to the right side,” Magwood, a Jacksonville State signee who until March 15 was a pitcher-only for the Trojans, said when he saw the shift. “I’ve been trying to get over there all series, I’ve been hitting balls hard at people. I put a good swing on the ball. They were pitching me outside, so I took it that way and I’m glad one finally fell for me right there in a clutch situation.”

The Yellow Jackets were playing Magwood to pull and had shifted right fielder Reece Howard well left of the 375 sign in right centerfield for his two-out plate appearance. They had been pitching Magwood middle away all series, but this time the Trojans’ centerfielder adjusted his approach and delivered the key hit.

“There were three balls that they hit that went against what they do,” Oxford coach Wes Brooks said. “But at the same time he’s a middle away guy and they hit three balls all game that went against their spray chart.”

Beating the shift was just one of several situations that conspired against the Jackets. The pitcher they hoped to use was unavailable after falling ill earlier in the week and a quirky bounce off a wild throw helped the Trojans get the game’s final out with the Jackets threatening.

Oxford sent Brantley Bargerhuff to the mound in a spot that normally would have gone to Hayden Green, but the senior right-hander was unavailable after becoming sick during the team dinner Thursday night. Brooks tried to put together a plan that included Green’s late arrival and Bargerhuff starting, but the ailing pitcher was just too ill to make it.

Bargerhuff pitched into the fifth inning when the Trojans tied the game 4-4. Trey Mooney came on to get the last out of the inning, but he gave up Magwood’s triple following a leadoff single, sacrifice, infield out and walk.

Even though they trailed by two, the threatened in the seventh. Howard got the rally started with a one-out walk and moved to second on an infield out. Tate Adams followed by hitting a sharp grounder to the left side of the infield. The throw to first was wide, allowing Howard to score and make it 6-5, but somehow the ball caromed off the wall below the protective padding right to the first baseman who threw perfectly over to second to get Adams for the final out of the game.

Had the play worked in Oxford’s favor, the Jackets had County Tournament MVP Caden Higgins coming to the plate. Higgins doubled home the Jackets’ go-ahead run in the third inning.

“It’s almost like we talked (about) last night,” Brooks said. “That the game of baseball and the game of life is ready to reward you when that gets ready, not so much when we’re ready.”

The Jackets opened their 4-1 lead with a three-run third. After Higgins’ broke a 1-1 tie with his RBI double, Jarin Turner followed with a two-run single.

I hope the kids realize what they have done,” Hazel Green coach Frankie Perez said. “Oxford is a great, great program that has won state championships … and the fact we came over here and got beat 15-1 in the first game and then came back to back just showed toughness.

“The fact that they took a punch the first game and said its not over and came back and beat a tradition program … I’ve been doing this a long time and can’t remember being so much proud of the guys.”

Brody Syer (2) crosses the plate with the first run of a three-run third inning that gave the Yellow Jackets a 4-1 lead. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

To see a gallery of photos from the game visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

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