By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
OXFORD – Jason Barber continues to play baseball above the experience level of a 15-year-old high school freshman.
Barber took the mound in the sixth inning with two runners in scoring position, but recorded three straight outs to help Oxford escape a huge jam and defeat Starkville 3-1 on Monday night.
The win at Swayze Field completed a series comeback for the Chargers (24-7) after losing last Tuesday’s opener. They advance to the Class 5A state quarterfinals against Neshoba Central or Hernando.
Max Bartlett’s double down the left field line sent Bryton Conley, who was hit by a pitch to begin the sixth, to third base with nobody out.
Barber relieved Oxford starter Steven Whitfield and got a crucial out when AJ Brown attempted a squeeze bunt but missed the ball. Conley was tagged out trying to return to third for the second out of the inning.
Four outs later, Barber recorded his first save of the season. He was also the winning pitcher in Game 2.
“(Barber) may be a freshman, but he plays like a dadgum senior,” said Oxford coach Chris Baughman. “There’s nobody I’d rather have up than him in that situation.
“He’s got ice water in his veins.”
A two-out single by Barber, then the designated hitter, scored Henry Webb and Brooks Krouse in the first inning for what would eventually be the deciding runs.
Oxford added an insurance run on a sixth-inning Chadwick Lamar pinch-hit RBI single.
The Yellowjackets (16-15) loaded the bases with one out in the third and scored on Conley’s sacrifice fly.
But a diving catch by shortstop Pittman Phillips on a Bartlett line drive saved at least one run from crossing home plate and kept the Chargers ahead.
Whitfield (4-2) allowed only two hits in earning the win, while Bartlett (4-3) took the loss.
“We were supposedly the David in this story, outmanned, outgunned, all that kind of stuff,” Starkville coach Brian Jones said. “I think we showed what we’re made of by competing and winning one game.”