E.A. Sports Today

Cleaning up on the bottom

Adams finds comfort level as ‘second leadoff man’ at bottom of Oxford’s  lineup, delivers three quality ABs in win over Jacksonville

Trey Higgins (3) is greeted at home plate by his Oxford teammates after hitting a first-inning home run in the Signature Field at Choccolocco Park. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today 

OXFORD – In some baseball circles getting dropped to the bottom of the batting order might be seen as a demotion, but Wes Brooks actually did Chadd Adams a favor.
The Oxford coach moved his senior second baseman from fifth to ninth in the lineup Thursday in hopes of easing the pressure of hitting in such a power spot and Adams responded with two doubles and three quality at bats in a 7-4 victory over Jacksonville at Choccolocco Park.

Wesley Sparks struck out seven in three innings plus of relief for the Yellow Jackets. (Photo by  B.J. Franklin)

Adams batted in the 7-hole last year, but Brooks moved him to the 5 when this season began in hopes of adding to the pop in the meat of the order. But it might have been a bit much and Adams had gotten only two hits in the Jackets’ first four games.
“He’s probably thinking he has to do too much in that 5 slot,” Brooks said. “I told Coach (Scott) Brackett today, let’s put him in the 9 hole, we’ll bunt him – I was thinking bunt base hit – and that would give him a spot to where we have a double leadoff guy. We’d have two guys fast and Trey Higgins is swinging a hot bat.
“I just think he was putting a little pressure on himself. A 9-hole is always your second leadoff guy. That’s what you want, two fast guys who can handle the bat 9 and 1 so your next three big guys can knock them in.”
When Adams saw his name in the 9 slot on the lineup card he wasn’t upset. He was honestly a little relieved and just focused on doing his job.
His double into the left-field corner in the second inning tied the game 2-2. He sacrificed Jake Spivey to third in the fourth and Spivey later scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball.  His third “hard 90” of the game was a towering infield pop that fell between fielders on the left side of the infield grass to keep the fifth inning alive; Reese Howard followed him with a sharp two-run double.
“It helped me a lot,” Adams said of the move. “Like Coach Brooks said, when I was hitting in the 5 hole I just felt like I had to put a lot of pop on the ball and get a lot bigger than I really am. That’s not the type of hitter I am and just moving down to the 9 hole just really helped me relax and see the ball and think middle.
“(Those at-bats) were definitely confidence builders. With me starting the season off not so hot I think tonight just helped me to relax and will help me to see the ball better in future games, especially on Saturday when we go up to Hartselle.”
Whether Adams remains ninth in the lineup, Brooks said, depends on who the Yellow Jackets are pitching that game and might be their designated hitter.
Higgins’ third homer of the year, a solo shot over the right-field fence of the Signature Field that doesn’t give up many, got Oxford (4-1) on the board in the first inning. Trey Mooney had two hits and Jarin Turner reached base three times, including a two-run single in the fourth.
The Jackets are using this early part of the season to find a third starter and sixth pitcher. Wesley Sparks, the third of four they used in the game, struck out seven in three-plus innings to get the win. Mooney, the last of the four, got the final four outs for the save. 
Brandon Breeding and Taye Loud both reached base all four times they batted for Jacksonville (1-2).
“Tonight was a game where we showed maturity,” Brooks said. “We started to grow up in some key moments.”

The win extended Oxford’s winning streak against Calhoun County opponents to 21 games. The Yellow Jackets’ last in-county loss came to Alexandria (10-4) in the title game of the 2015 Calhoun County Tournament.

They have beaten eight different teams in the streak: Alexandria (4-0), Jacksonville (5-0), Ohatchee (1-0), Piedmont (3-0), Saks (1-0), Weaver (2-0), Wellborn (3-0), White Plains (2-0).

Jake Spivey (16) hits the plate with Oxford’s go-ahead run in the fourth inning. Spivey scored on a passed ball and Jacksonville pitcher Brandon Breeding (R) races in to cover the plate. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

On the cover, Chadd Adams delivers the game-tying double in his first at-bat of the season from the ninth spot in the lineup. To see more pictures from the game, visitwww.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

Oxford 7, Jacksonville 4
Jacksonville        020 002 0 –  4 5 4
Oxford                 110 320 x –  7 9 3
WP: Mooney. LP: Breeding. 2B: Howard (O), Adams (O) 2. HR: Mooney (O). Records: Jacksonville 1-2, Oxford 4-1.

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