E.A. Sports Today

Jackets keep working

Monday baseball: Oxford takes down Opelika behind Hapach, then holds a mini-practice in advance of area opener; includes scores, line scores

Reese Howard (28) went 3-for-4 and created Oxford’s first run of the game with his speed. On the cover, Oxford starter Cole Hapach gets a high-five from coach Wes Brooks after a job well done. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

Monday’s games
Spring Garden 12, Faith Christian 0
Weaver 16, Ragland 1
Choccolocco Park Experience
Oxford 10, Opelika 4
Opelika 11, Boonville (Mo.) 1
Austin 9, Munford 5
Austin 8, Boonville (Mo.) 6
By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
OXFORD – It was a little after 9:15 when Oxford put the finishing touches on its 10-4 victory over Opelika Monday night, but the Yellow Jackets work for the night wasn’t done.
No sooner had the post-game handshakes concluded and the Bulldogs headed for the exit, the Jackets were back on the field practicing – a 20-minute walk-through, actually – to clean up a few details in the run up to Tuesday’s area opener against Albertville.
They already had met once earlier in the day and practiced before the game, but they couldn’t get done in that workout what they needed because of the personnel involved in the game they had to play.
“We just need to get some polish up on some stuff, just kind of quizzing them a little bit,” Brooks said.
Even though it had gotten chilly, the players warmed to the idea.
“It’s cold, but coach wants us to get better and that’s the kind of team we are; this going to help us out in the long run,” starting pitcher Cole Hapach said. 

The game was part of the Choccolocco Park Spring Break Experience.
The two-week extravaganza has always been a good stretch of games for the Yellow Jackets on the ledger, but not necessarily a good barometer of what is to come. The Jackets are now 17-7 in games played during the Experience these past three seasons; one of the years it was a momentum grabber, in another it burned them out and they faded at the end.
So far this year the Experience has been a mixed bag – a walk-off win, a sluggish defeat and Monday’s win they controlled from the start behind Hapach. The junior right-hander gave up two three hits in 4 2/3 innings and struck out five. He threw 74 pitches, 71 two-seam fastballs. Of the three off-speed pitches he threw, one was a strikeout, one was a swing and miss, the other was a ball.
“I really haven’t had the outings that I wanted to and I kept that in the back of mind,” Hapach said. “And I think today was the day (to break out of that).”
One of the appeals of the Experience is it brings several out-of-state to the Big House looking to get a jump start on their seasons, and all the local teams pitch to play them. This year, the Experience again doubled its offering of out-of-state teams to four – two from Missouri (Boonville and returning Hickman) and one each from New York (Hamburg) and Ohio (Grove City).
Oxford will play the teams from New York and Ohio at its campus Bud McCarty Field Saturday as part of its recognition of late coach Randy Bussey.

“Just about every new out-of-state team every single year they’re not coming because of the picture’s on social media, they’re not coming because the website’s beautiful, they’re not coming because we’re the No. 1 high school field in the country, they’re coming because of word-of-mouth,” Brooks said. “Word of mouth travels faster and is much better than a like or a retweet or whatever, and all these coaches say that about their experience.”

The facility does have its appeal. Boonville coach Adam Arnette was only seeing Choccolocco Park for the first time and said it was nicer than the artificial turf facility his teams play their biggest tournaments on.
The Pirates, the preseason No. 3 team in Missouri Class 4A, got into town Sunday night and worked out on the Signature Field for the first time Monday morning before its losses to Opelika (11-1) and Austin (8-6). They had played only one game and been outside only five days before coming to Alabama. By contrast, Opelika had played 19 games, Austin 14.
“We’re looking to get a lot of spring games in,” said Arnette, whose took the team to Cocoa Beach, Fla., two years ago, where the competition wasn’t as keen as it’s going to be during this stay. “In Missouri you really don’t get many games in this time of year.”
The rust showed early. Opelika erupted for eight runs in the fourth inning and held the Pirates to five hits in their game. They fell behind Austin 8-1, but rallied for five runs in the sixth inning only to come up a little short.

“We just need to see more pitches and get more games in to really see where we’re going to be at by the end of the year,” Arnette said. “We want to see good competition. We want something that’s going to help prepare us for the long haul, for the rest of the season.”

Boonville (Mo.) coach Adam Arnette brought his team South for the second time in three years looking for games to prepare for the season ahead. The Pirates, one of four out-of-state teams playing at Choccolocco Park the next two weeks, played two Monday and have two more Tuesday. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

To see more photos from the day visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

Monday linescores
Oxford 10, Opelika 4
Opelika         000 011 2 – 4 3 4
Oxford          401 401 x – 10 13 3
WP: Cole Hapach. LP: Hunter Weston. 2B: Will McDow (O), Trey Higgins (O), Jake Spivey (O), Dawson Winningham (O). 3B: Wesley Sparks (O), Jake Spivey (O). Notes: Reese Howard went 3-for-4, while Spivey, Chadd Adams and Sparks (two RBIs) had two hits apiece.
Opelika 11, Boonville (Mo.) 1
Opelika           030 80 – 11 9 1
Boonville        001 00 – 1 5 2
WP: Hoony Oh. LP: Reece Lang. 2B: Colten Dunson (O), Micah Christian (O). Notes: Dunson had three hits and Christian had three RBIs for Opelika.
Austin 9, Munford 5
Munford         220 000 1 – 5 9 3
Austin             020 043 x – 9 8 1
WP: Jack Wilson. LP: Drew Harkins. 2B: Lawson Molden (M), Tarik Sykes (A), Zac Kennedy (A). Notes: Austin tied the game in the fifth with two bases-loaded singles and took the lead with two bases-loaded infield outs. Dawson Strickland, Dakota Green (two RBIs) and Corben Smith each had two hits for Munford.
Austin 8, Boonville (Mo.) 6
Boonville        100 005 0 – 6 5 7
Austin             230 030 x – 8 4 4
WP: Parker Nichols. LP: Connor Barnes.  2B: Peyton Keeran (B), Dakota Peebles (A). 3B: Peyton Keeran (B), Jake Smallwood (A). Notes: Booneville took its first lead of the trip on Trae Williams’ RBI single in the first. Barnes struck out nine in four innings. Nichols gave up two hits and struck out three in five innings.
Spring Garden 12, Faith Christian 0
Spring Garden 210 09 – 12 12 0
Faith Christian 000 00 – 0 3 5
WP: Kenneth Petty. LP: Brodie Dodson. 2B: Kenneth Petty (S), Luke Welsh (S), Colby Slayton (S). 3B: Chaz Pope (S). Notes: Spring Garden leadoff man Chaz Pope went 3-for-3, Luke Ivey, Colby Slayton and Luke Welsh drove in two runs each and the Panthers used three pitchers to hold the Lions to three hits.
Weaver 16, Ragland 1
Weaver         360 07 – 16 10 0
Ragland        000 10 – 1 4 4
WP: Jadon Calhoun. LP: Sloan Phillips. 2B: Sloan Phillips (R), Jalen Byers (R). 3B: Taylor Thompson 2 (W). Notes: Taylor Thompson drove in five runs, Colby Thompson had two hits and Calhoun went 3-for-3. Calhoun also struck out six in five innings.

Peyton Howard (5) slides into second base on a first-inning double steal that produced the game’s first run. He scored the second run later in the inning on a wild pitch (below). (Photos by B.J. Franklin)

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