By David Wheeler/Special to the NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – The Oxford Chargers had done their due diligence leading up to their first-round playoff series:
• Won Division 2-5A.
• Played three makeup games.
But in Tuesday’s Game 1 of their matchup with the Starkville Yellowjackets, it was the visiting squad that paid just enough dues on the baseball field.
Starkville (16-13) used a four-run fourth inning to help edge the No. 1 seeded Chargers 6-5 to gain a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three Class 5A series.
“Our guys just went out and competed,” first-year Starkville coach Brian Jones said. “The last two weeks, we’ve played better.”
bases left loaded
Oxford (22-7) played its best ball of the night in the seventh inning, scoring twice after leadoff hits by Jack McClure and Jason Barber. But with the bases loaded and one out, Starkville reliever Tanner Clanton came in from left field to notch a strikeout and a harmless fly to right to end it.
“We imploded in a couple of spots tonight,” Oxford coach Chris Baughman said.
“But we fought back like we always do.”
Part of Oxford’s implosion this contest was leaving the bases loaded in the third and fifth innings, as well as the seventh. Oxford pitching also walked five and hit one on the night.
The Chargers led 3-2 in the third. But Starkville responded with four runs in the top of the fourth, all with two outs.
Jalen Campbell and Max Barlett each had RBI hits, with Clanton closing the scoring with a two-runs single.
“We need to make sure we respond, and not act like the series is over,” Baughman said. “I still feel we’re one of the best teams in this.”
Oxford visits Starkville at 6 p.m. Thursday.