By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
OXFORD – After starting the season abnormally slow, Chris Baughman sat his Oxford Chargers down for a team meeting Wednesday with one solid piece of advice to give.
“It’s not panic time,” he said. “I felt these guys had some things we needed to hash out and kind of work on. Our big thing this week has been getting a little bit mentally tough.”
Oxford responded well to Baughman’s words Friday against rival Lafayette. The Chargers overcame difficult situations in the final two innings to down the Commodores 6-5 in the Crosstown Classic.
Down 5-3, Lafayette loaded the bases with one out in the sixth inning thanks to a walk and two straight singles by John Murphree and Jake McPhail.
Chargers starter James Lear (1-2) got out of the jam by recording a strikeout and fielder’s choice against the eight- and nine-hole hitters.
But the Commodores weren’t through fighting, loading the bases again in the seventh with just one out. This time they pushed two runs across on a throwing error on a pickoff attempt by Lear and a sacrifice fly by Murphree.
Lear, who struck out three batters in going the distance for the Chargers (4-4), left the tying run at second base by getting McPhail to fly out to end the game.
“We’ve been talking a lot about coming out and playing fearless, without the consequences, and just going out and playing our game,” Lear said. “We were able to get out of it with some good plays on the defensive side.”
Lafayette (3-4) started the game red hot by scoring three runs on back-to-back run scoring doubles by Dylan Gossett and Murphree.
Oxford’s sticks were equally hot off Commodores starter Austin Arrington (1-1). They tallied six of their eight hits in the first, scoring five runs in the process to take a 5-3 lead.
That’s when Lear settled down, facing no more than four batters in a frame over the next four innings.
Luke Stanley replaced Arrington after two-plus innings and finished the game with five strikeouts.
Lear helped his own cause in the bottom of the sixth, knocking in Chadwick Lamar on a groundout for what would be the game-winning run.