E.A. Sports Today

Monsters mashed

Oxford wood-bat collegiate team has tough time in first official game, suffers run-rule loss to Columbus

Neal Williamson (R), the original Choccolocco Monster of local lore, shakes hands with Monsters catcher Sean Smith after throwing out the franchise’s ceremonial first pitch at their home opener Friday night.

Friday’s SBL Games
Alpharetta 8, Gwinnett 4
Columbus 10, Choccolocco 0
Waleska 21, Brookhaven 7

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — The Choccolocco Monsters are hoping for a long and fruitful existence in Oxford and the Sunbelt Baseball League, but it certainly didn’t start the way they wanted.

The Monsters lost their first official game as an SBL franchise Friday night in a 10-0 run-rule setback to the Columbus Chatt-a-Hoots at Choccolocco Park.

“We were not particularly good,” Monsters manager Steve Gillispie said. “The bottom line is we didn’t adjust and I don’t know whether the stage was a little bigger than what those kids were used to being on.

“We talked about that last week, but they also knew it was go-time, that it was live and the exhibition part is gone. We’re into meaningful games.”

While the atmosphere was festive for the official start of the season, there weren’t many highlights.

Monsters starter Brock Hill walked four of the first six batters he faced and nine total in three innings while falling behind 7-0. The Monsters, meanwhile, were held to three hits. The Hoots scored multiple runs in four of the first five innings to go up 9-0.

During pre-game player introductions, the Monsters lined up facing the field instead of looking in the eyes of the 700 or so who came to see what this team was all about. With league commissioner Todd Pratt in attendance, somebody forgot there was a run rule in the league and they played an extra inning, uncertain if those stats will count. It ended the same either way, with the Monsters hitting into a double play.

“I kind of put that in (the umpires’) hands because they’re hired to manage the game once it’s started,” Gillispie said. “I knew we were down, but I’m in the game, trying to figure out how to make some moves, get some guys some at bats. I thought there was (a run rule), but didn’t really notice until they mentioned it in the bottom of the eighth that there was. Should’ve been stopped the inning before.”

There were highlights.

Neal Williamson, the original Choccolocco Monster, brought out the cape and steer’s skull costume he used to scare passersby as a teen for the first time in 54 years to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. And Dawson Winningham delivered the franchise’s first hit, a single between short and third with two outs in the second inning. He promptly recorded the team’s first stolen base, becoming their first ever runner in scoring position.

The umpires did recognize the significance of the feat and retrieved the ball, delivering it to Monsters manager Steve Gillispie in the dugout.

“There’s a joy and emotion being back on my home field, playing here,” said Winningham, an Oxford product. “I’ve been going for two years and it was good to see the hometown crowd coming out and supporting us and supporting me. 

“There definitely was a chill running down my back when I got to first base on that hit. I got there and Coach Dalton Cobb was like, ‘hey, you know you got the first hit?’ I had no idea. I was going up there playing my game … and I made it happen. It’s something that’s going to stick with me for a lifetime.”

The Monsters best threat to score their first run came in the sixth inning. They loaded the bases with one out and the top of the order coming up, but the Hoots got out of it with a strikeout and groundout. 

The teams play in Columbus Saturday night. It will be their sixth game against each other in eight days. The Hoots have won four of the first five and, really, the first one that counted.

The Monsters-Hoots series has taken on a special meaning. Before the game it was announced, since both teams are owned by Ignite Sports, the winner of the series would take home the Ignite Sports Cup. They play seven more times this season.

Gillispie said his lineup would look a little different Saturday at Golden Park with the infusion of several newcomers, including first commitment Brennan McCullough, and different still next week when several other players join them for the first time. The players are convinced when they all come together they could have something special.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys who haven’t played together,” Winningham said. “We’ve been practicing for a week together. We’re still bonding, still getting to know guys; we had two or three guys come in tonight.

“There’s really good talent on this team, guys coming from all over. I think our biggest thing as a team is we need to loosen up and just play ball, trust everything that got us to this point because if we couldn’t play we wouldn’t be college eligible.”

Columbus 232 020 10 — 10 10 0
Choccolocco 000 000 00 — 0 3 2
WP: Clay Weatherly (1-0). LP: Brock Hill (0-1). 2B: Zane Ross (Col), Brad Smith (Col).

Sunbelt Baseball League standings

Alpharetta Aviators21.667
Waleska Wild Things21.667
Gainesville GolDiggers02.0001
Atlanta Crackers21.667
Brookhaven Bucks11.5000.5
Atlanta Blues12.3331
Columbus Chatt-a-Hoots101.000
Gwinnett Astros11.5000.5
Choccolocco Monsters01.0001

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