BY BRAD LOCKE
The most apt description of Cade Hoggard comes from the man who knows him best.
“He's kind of a football player in a baseball uniform,” said his father, Don.
Whether pitching or hitting, Hoggard, the 2005 Daily Journal Player of the Year, indeed carried with him a gridiron mentality onto the baseball diamond – he was an all-state football player, after all. And he didn't dawdle. The Mississippi State signee's quick-strike attitude came to define the Oxford Chargers, the Journal's top-ranked team, as they marched toward a 36-4 record and the Class 4A state title, their first ever.
“He was the most fierce competitor we had. We expected to win when he was out there – on the mound or at the plate,” Oxford assistant coach Bradley Roberson said.
Hoggard (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) credits his dad, a former Arkansas State assistant football coach, for bequeathing that characacteristic.
“He's always taught me to give 100 percent every time out,” said Hoggard, who is a two-time all-area pick, as are Nettleton's Luke Adkins, Itawamba AHS's Brian Dozier and Houlka's Chris Huggins.
The rest of this year's first team: Chris Lucius (Mooreville), Jason Howell (Mooreville), Wes Grilliette (Oxford), Chase Porch (East Union), Chris Bennett (Tupelo), John David Horn (Booneville) and Chris Hilliard (North Pontotoc).
Though Hoggard's stats are impressive – 9-0 with a 2.25 ERA on the mound, .466 with nine home runs and 58 RBI at the plate – they can't fully define his indisposability.
After a playoff-opening loss, Hoggard hurled a two-hit shutout against Lafayette County and then rapped four hits against Itawamba AHS – including a double to spark a two-run first inning – the same day to get Oxford back on track.
In the state final series, he set the tone in each game with a pair of first-inning homers, and he earned the win in the Game 2 clincher.
“I play on a lot of emotion,” Hoggard said. “I like jumping on any team in any game, no matter if it's a championship game or a regular season game.
“When the game's on the line, I want that to be me in that situation.”
He likes it so much, coach Brian Harvey has had to calm him down on more than one occasion. But Hoggard is nothing if not level-headed. He was one of the seniors who gathered his teammates before the Lafayette County game and urged them to crank it up early.
That was the day Oxford's season really turned. After pasting New Hope 14-2 in Game 1 of the North Mississippi finals, Hoggard realized how good his team was. After the Chargers stung Petal 9-2 in the state title opener, he knew the trophy was theirs.
The championship was the culmination of a season that saw the Chargers rapidly assume Hoggard's ferocity.
“Everybody started becoming real aggressive,” he said. “We kept building every game. By the end of the season everybody was on the same level, everybody was wanting it.”