Chargers-New Hope resume rivalry
Oxford’s quest to win its first state title in baseball since 2005 resumes tonight against a familiar foe in New Hope. Don Brooks, the “Voice of the Chargers” saw all three games played between the Chargers and Trojans this season and he expects another good series between the long-time rivals.
Brooks, who calls the action live on 95.5 FM each game, felt like both programs were evenly matched heading into the opener at New Hope.
“I think it’s going to be three competitive, low-scoring ballgames because that’s what we’ve seen the first three games. The team that makes the mistakes is going to be the team that loses. Last time New Hope came to Oxford in that pivotal Game 3 that decided the region, they made the plays, especially defensively,” Brooks said. “(Will) Golsan was outstanding at shortstop and they came through with the big hits when they needed it. They did a good job of moving runners along, getting them to third with less than outs, and those type of things are going to be what makes the difference in this series.”
Brooks felt like the starting pitching, for both teams, was going to be pretty solid. Looking at the stats, New Hope is the better team, at least on paper.
“They hit for a better average, their pitching, their earned run average is less. Their fielding percentage is better than Oxford, but I just think that Oxford has that chip on their shoulder right now. They were disrespected in their series with Lewisburg and they’re playing their best ball right now,” Brooks said. “They’re swinging the bats better than they have all season. They’re getting good starting pitching that’s keeping them in the games and that’s what it takes to keep moving along in the series.”
The Chargers lost two of three during the regular season to New Hope, with the one win being at Trojan Field. Brooks felt like after the Chargers lost 4-2 in the third meeting, things changed, in a more positive fashion.
“I think it all clicked after they lost that game to New Hope. They looked at themselves and said ‘We can quit right here or we can take the same route that New Hope took last year as a two seed and we can come together as a team.’ I think the latter is what happened,” Brooks said. “I think when you look at them now, they go up to the plate with a lot more confidence. They battle, they foul pitches off. They take a lot of pitches. They try to get aboard with walks and different things. People like Jack McClure (OHS catcher), they’re hitting the ball hard every at bat. (Brooks) Krouse has been hitting the ball hard, I just think everybody is doing a much better job at the plate with plate discipline and getting good pitches to hit.”
The Chargers have won six of seven games in the playoffs and Brooks has picked a different player to be his MVP each series.
“From Michael Bianco at the top, he’s doing what you want as a lead-off hitter. He’s getting on base anyway he can, to people like Brooks Krouse, who is putting the ball in play and not hitting the ball in the air, they’re making the defense make plays against them,” Brooks said. “They’ve gotten some breaks along the way where the opponent has not been able to make the plays, which has given them some opportunities. They’ve capitalized on that. At the bottom of the order, Pittman Phillips has raised his average 50 points since that loss to New Hope. Offensively is where the team has stepped it up and done a much better job in that department.”
If the series goes to a third game to decide who represents the North in the state title series next week, that contest will be played at New Hope on Saturday. Despite that fact, Brooks felt like playing away from Edwin Moak Field for OHS would play a smaller role in the outcome.
“If you look at the regular season, the one game we won was down there. If you look at the third game against Lewisburg, we were able to close it out in an environment that was hostile and everyone was on the edge of their seat the whole time and the crowd was in favor for Lewisburg,” Brooks said. “Against Germantown, the same way. We won that game on the road to close out that series. I think this team plays just as good on the road as they do at home. The crowd support has grown over the last three weeks. You’ve got people coming to the games that haven’t come in the past and I think (Chargers) are thriving off that. I don’t see the home-field advantage being that big of a deal in the favor of New Hope.”
All three games in the series have a start time of 7 p.m.