E.A. Sports Today

Freshman faces

With two solid innings of work and a walk-off hit, Whitman and Bradford take advantage of chances to shine for Oxford during Spring Experience

Oxford freshman Bryson Bradford gets game-ending hit for Oxford against Fayetteville on Tuesday. (Courtesy of Patrick Harrison)

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Funny thing about when the baseball starts to look fat. Sometimes, it looks just as fat on the varsity level as it looks in junior varsity.

Oxford freshman Bryson Bradford barreled a fat baseball Tuesday, and the resulting RBI single in the bottom of the fifth ended Oxford’s 12-2 victory in the first game of a doubleheader against Fayetteville at Choccolocco Park.

Freshman pitcher Canaan Whitman, working the final two hitless and scoreless innings with a strikeout and two walks.

The Yellow Jackets (16-4) followed up with a 13-1 victory in the second game to continue their strong start to the Spring Experience, their annual spring-break showcase

Oxford swept a doubleheader with Central-Phenix City 13-0 and 12-1 at Hoover High School on Monday.

Both doubleheaders offered a heaping helping of what spring-break baseball can be … a chance for younger players to show out.

“Had a chance yesterday in Game 2 to play a lot of guys,” Oxford coach Wes Brooks said. “(Reid) Maniscalco played short yesterday. (Caleb) Robertson played second, and Robertson played second today, and those young guys got to play. (Gavin) Griner got to play outfield, and (Eli) Bozeman got to play center field and right field yesterday and got to hit.

“I think everybody got in the game today except Forrest Heacock, but this is kind of a rest day for him. Overall, it was a good day, and we need games like this.”

The Spring Experience plays out this week and next week, mostly at Choccolocco Park. Teams from Golden, Colo., Stow, Ohio and Hickman, Mo,. will join the fray, along with a possible visit from Orange Lutheran (Calif.).

“They’re playing in Hoover’s spring-break tournament, but they’re not in the tournament,” Brooks said. “They just came in to play a doubleheader on the way to Florida.

“They’re supposed to try to play us if their California state baseball association allows them to play that extra game. Their rules are a little bit different.”

Local teams besides Oxford scheduled to play in the Experience include Handley Ohatchee, Piedmont, Randolph County, Wellborn and White Plains.

Brooks makes adjustments to the schedule daily.

“This year, it’s weird, because there’s not many people on spring break during this week,” Brooks said. “Next week, it’s weird, because there’s like 40-something teams in.”

There will be games where Brooks will want to test best against best. Then come games where he can mix younger players with veterans.

The fact that shortstop and Auburn signee Sam Robertson continues to rest with the left-knee injury he sustained in the Perfect Game tournament two weeks ago creates another opening.

Against Fayetteville on Tuesday, Whitman got the call to the mound to start the fourth inning with an 8-2 lead. He hit a batter and walked a batter, prompting Brooks to trot out and settle him down.

Whitman was all good from there.

“I just had to take a deep breath and remember it’s a game,” Whitman said. “Have fun. … It’s always fun to play around the defense we have.”

Oxford got several big offensive performances at the plate from veterans. Peyton Watts went 2-for-3 with a home run, double, three runs and three RBIs in the first game and hit a grand slam in the second.

Bradford enjoyed walk-off glory, however. To the surprise of no one, he came on to pinch hit for Hudson GIlman and singled home Watts for the game-ending run.

“He’s been, like, 6-for-6, six barrels in his last JV swings,” Brooks said. “Every time he swings, he barrels the baseball, and everybody just kind of felt like he was going to do that.”

As Bradford stood on first base, teammates rushed him from the dugout.

“That was amazing,” he said. “I was like, what are they coming at me for? I forgot the game was over.”

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