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Oxford’s Johnson edges teammate Gilman in 60-second hitoff to win inaugural Fellowship of Christian Athletes high school home run derby

Runner-up Hudson Gilman (left) and champion Carter Johnson hold their trophies after Monday’s inaugural Fellowship of Christian Athletes high school home run derby on Choccolocco Park’s signature field. (Photo by Joe Medley)

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Baseball is not a timed sport, but Carter Johnson bit a buzzer-beater to win Monday’s inaugural Fellowship of Christian Athletes high school home run derby.

What he laughingly called a “bad swing” on the last pitch of a 60-second hitoff with Oxford teammate Hudson Gilman carried over the Choccolocco Park signature field fence in right-center field, giving him a 2-1 edge in the hitoff.

“Honestly, it was a had swing,” said Johnson, a first-team all-state infielder on Oxford’s Class 6A state title team. “I just threw my hands out, and it went out.

“I was kind of surprised it went out, but it was awesome, just being out here, and playing against my teammate in the final round was fun, too.”

Monday’s home run derby came three weeks after its original May 22 date and moved from The Donoho School’s short-porch field to Choccolocco Park. Organizers set the hitting point 30 feet in front of home plate to mimic field dimensions at Donoho.

The inaugural derby, a fundraiser for FCA, was designed to draw the top two home-run hitters from each school in Calhoun County. It drew 14 players from Donoho, Faith Christian, Jacksonville, Ohatchee, Oxford, Piedmont, Saks, Weaver and White Plains.

“It was very good for the first one,” said Justin Caudle, campus missionary for the FCA’s Calhoun, Clay, Cleburne and Randolph County chapter. “All of the athletes and coaches seemed to have a great time.

“It was great it came down to the last-second swing for the win. I think it will grow each year.”

Each batter had two minutes to swing away with the batting-practice pitcher of his choice in the first round and three minutes apiece in the second and final rounds.

It came down to Johnson and Gilman, who tied 6-6 in the final round. Johnson hit six home runs in each of the first three rounds and two in the hitoff to finish with 20. Gilman hit two in the first round but 12 in the second, including home runs on six consecutive pitches, and finished with derby-high 21 total shots over the fence.

Both batters had to adjust to new batting-practice pitchers during the competition.

Gilman had Oxford head coach Wes Brooks, but Brooks had to leave before the hitoff. Their combination worked for an electric second round.

“Coach Brooks kept putting them where he needed to put them, and I just tried to catch them out front and let them fly,” Gilman said.

Johnson worked with his dad, Jason, for the first two rounds.

“He was tired. He was done,” Johnson said. “He couldn’t throw anymore strikes, so I just asked one of my coaches.”

Johnson, a rising senior and Alabama commit, is playing travel ball for Excel Baseball Academy this summer. The season runs through July.

He called Monday’s home-run derby a perfect end to a high school season that saw Oxford match the school record with 39 wins, including a 19-game winning streak to end the season. The Yellow Jackets won their second Class 6A state title and first since 2012.

“It’s been a pretty good season so far,” Johnson said. “Just come back better next year.”

FCA high school home run derby

(Two minutes for each batter)

Lucas Elliott, Donoho: 0
Peyton Webb, Donoho: 5
Brady Whitworth, Faith Christian: 0
Jackson Bonner, Jacksonville: 0
Grant Patterson, Jacksonville: 2
Devin Howell, Ohatchee: 0
Hudson Gilman, Oxford: 2
Carter Johnson, Oxford: 6
Jack Hayes, Piedmont: 2
Mason Jairrels, Saks: 0
Owen Petty, Saks: 0
Elijah Smith, Weaver: 0
Ashton Wallace, White Plains: 3 
Cooper Tinney, White Plains: 1

(Three minutes for each batter)

Peyton Webb, Donoho: 4
Grant Patterson, Jacksonville: 0
Hudson Gilman, Oxford: 12
Carter Johnson, Oxford: 6
Jack Hayes, Piedmont: 1
Ashton Wallace, White Plains: 4

(Three minutes for each batter)

Hudson Gilman, Oxford: 6
Carter Johnson, Oxford: 6


Hudson Gilman, Oxford: 1
Carter Johnson, Oxford: 2

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