New Hope ends Chargers’ season with 3-2 win
It was do or die for New Hope in the top of the seventh of Friday night’s MHSAA Class 5A North Half title game. That was the feeling of coach Lee Boyd, who knew if his Trojans didn’t score, his starter, JC Redden, couldn’t go much longer.
Fortunately for Boyd, shortstop Will Golsan collected a two-out single, stole second base and then scored when Game 1 hero, Taylor Stafford, drove him in with a single through the right side of the infield. Stafford’s single broke a 2-2 with Oxford and ultimately propelled the Trojans to a 3-2 victory over Oxford at Edwin Moak Field Friday night, sending them back to Pearl to defend their 5A title.
A night after leading the Trojans (31-3 overall) on the mound in a Game 1 win, Stafford came through with a clutch hit to win the game. Stafford, a Mississippi State signee, had plans of celebrating at OHS following the opener at New Hope and he ended up leading the charge.
“It was awesome. I knew coming into that last inning that it could come down to me. It could have come down to anybody, but I knew how bad we wanted to beat them here at their place,” Stafford said moments after the 3-2 win. “We got to dog pile.”
Stafford added he was out in front of a lot of pitches from Oxford starter Houston Roth all night. In two of his previous three at bats, Stafford flew out to left field. Stafford struck out twice in the opener against Roth’s brother Hunter. But he saw the slider Roth threw, just enough, to make contact.
“He was throwing a lot of off-speed stuff late in the game. It was kind of low, but luckily I was able to see it really well and I got a piece of it and slide it through the first and second baseman,” Stafford said. “We had seen (Houston Roth) earlier in the season and he beat us. We really thought we had a good plan coming out against him. The plan was to make him work, make him throw a lot of pitches and throw the off speed. He battled really hard up there, he did a great job against us in the late innings, but we got some guys to come through in the clutch.”
Boyd gave a lot of credit to Roth, who lost his first game as a starter on the varsity level, for the way he pitched as well. Boyd agreed that Roth, who struck out four straight batters to end the sixth and start the seventh, seemed to be getting stronger while his starter was about out of gas. That’s why he gave Golsan the green light to steal second base and get into scoring position once he reached.
“What was really going through my mind, I’m not going to say it was our last chance, but as far as our pitching, I knew JC couldn’t pitch past the seventh. I think he finished with a 115-, 118-pitch count, so I new the seventh would be his last inning to throw. I knew I had my third baseman, (Josh) Stillman who is a good arm, but I also knew they had (Jason) Barber for Game 3 and if I threw Stillman for two or three innings and we lose, we’re sitting in bad shape for (Saturday),” Boyd said. “For us to score in the seventh, if we don’t, it was going to be extremely difficult in a lot of ways.
“The big two-out single by Golsan was huge. It’s like I told Golsan, ‘We got to get to second base.’ Us stringing together a couple hits off this guy, it’s going to be tough for us to score, so that’s why we ran there,” Boyd added. “Then Taylor coming up, he had been struggling a little bit and not hitting like he wants to. I just tried to give him a word of encouragement there and luckily he came through for us in the end.”
Oxford coach Chris Baughman felt the same way about the seventh, and that if his Chargers could have gotten a third out in the seventh, his team was going to win it in the bottom half of the inning.
“I just had that feeling. Give credit to Golsan. And Stafford. He hit a great pitch. He rolled over it on the outside part of the plate,” Baughman said. “The pitch Golsan hit was a curveball and I shouldn’t have called it. I thought he was going to be looking slider and I called a little bit slower of a pitch, but he kept his hands back. The kid’s good, he’s an SEC, D-I player for a reason. The play he made in the six hole that prevented us from scoring two runs and we only got one run, that was unbelievable.”
Redden ended up getting the win by holding the Chargers (26-10) off the board in the seventh, despite walking both Brooks Krouse and Jack McClure and Krouse and Wes Snellgrove, running for McClure, reaching second and third base. After Hunter Roth was eliminated, Barber was intentionally walked to load the bases. Redden then got Ben Bianco to pop out to foul territory behind first base to end the game.
Oxford ended up leaving 10 runners on base in the loss, a night after struggling to get any on against Stafford.
Baughman gave a ton of credit to his starter, who overcame a slow start in which he walked two in the third inning with New Hope up 1-0 and looking for more, to finish strong and strike out five of the last eight batters he faced.
“He was unreal tonight and all year. He didn’t fill (strike zone) early. His shoulder was tightening up on in him in the first inning. I felt like he kind of let the pressure of the game get to him early, but he still got out of it without giving up runs. I made a mound visit (in the third) and he got out of that inning and it was like a light switch went off and he was Houston,” Baughman said. “Everybody talked about Jason this year, but he’s shown he’s a winner. He battled out there and he grew up tonight. He grew up during the ballgame tonight and was amazing.”