What?: 1st Round of the 5A Playoffs - Best-of-3 Series
Where?: Edwin Moak Field @ OHS (Game 2 & - if necessary - Game 3) & Callaway High School (Game 1)
When?: Game 1: Thursday, April 24th @ 6:00, Game 2: Friday, April 25th @ 4:00, Game 3: Friday, April 25th @ 7:00 (if necessary)
How can you keep up?: Bullseye 95.5 FM Radio, Bullseye955.com, @OxChargerSports Twitter Account, Baseball iScore Gamecast at this -> LINK <- (click on respective Oxford/Callaway Game with correct corresponding date and time of game to watch)
Probable starting rotation: Oxford - So. Jason Barber (4-3, 1.54 ERA), So. Houston Roth (8-0, 1.96), Jr. Jack McClure (3-1, 4.70). Callaway: (not known, no stats were available on the MaxPreps page)
The Lowdown: I'm going to put it blunt: this is the most lopsided matchup in the playoffs.
Oxford is ranked 3rd in 5A on Maxpreps (behind region foe New Hope and 1-5A Champion Lewisburg - who is awaiting the winner of this series) and the highest ranked 2-seed in the playoffs, Callaway is ranked 26th out of 32 5A teams - 2nd worse of all playoff teams to Natchez. Their records indicate it, who the teams have played has indicated it. Really it is about Oxford playing to what they are capable of and these should be two routs.
Because of Oxford's poor defensive performances against New Hope (Oxford committed a combined 7 errors in the two losses) is what sets up this matchup.
Oxford has by far the pitching to go deep with Ole Miss commit Jason Barber and unbeaten Houston Roth along with a solid bullpen. Houston's brother Hunter has his arm back and should any series go to three games Oxford has the advantage of pitching depth.
Although Callaway has not posted any stats, an 8-16 record, and the amount of runs they have given up (192 runs in 19 posted scores - an average of 10.1 runs allowed per game) doesn't look good to upset. They have to hit Barber and Houston if they are going to have a shot. Hitting Barber is hard enough who has a fastball in the upper 80s and that can touch 90. Houston is a pitcher's pitcher - he doesn't "throw", he "pitches" which is why he has been consistently effective this year.
Luckly Oxford was eliminated in Basketball before they could play Malik Newman and the Callaway Boys Hoop team, so Oxford may actually sweep Callaway in all head-to-head sports this year.
For Oxford to win this series, they must: Not Hand Outs For Free - Meaning no errors on defense. Barber has a 4-3 pitching record mainly because in his three loss decisions, he has had 13 errors behind him with Barber on the mound. Oxford is a baffling 1-3 in Barber's last 4 starts.
Put the Ball on the Ground - If there is one thing about non-baseball schools they have a problem with, it is fielding a ground ball. Most delta and Jackson schools in the JPS area aren't usually in the playoffs for a reason - and for the record, Callaway beat Lanier, another JPS school, to make the playoffs. Only one team in each 4-team division doesn't make the playoffs in 5A. Those teams usually do not have a "strikeout" pitcher, and when they don't, the defense behind the pitcher has to make plays, and most cases they boot the ball.
For Callaway to win this series, they must: Hit the Ball - They must match Oxford hit-for-hit if they are going to stay with the Northern Chargers and have a chance to win the series. They know they are at a serious disadvantage simply because they are not as skilled.
Play Solid Defense - Oxford's hitters are too solid to strikeout all the time, especially since most of them have been through the fire before. Oxford will put it in play, it is a matter of making the routine plays and making a few non-routine plays.
No Baserunning Mistakes - Callaway needs to be alert on the basepaths, if they aren't Oxford will be.
Weather: Game 1 Thursday in Jackson, MS: Partly Cloudy (no chance of rain), 81*F at first pitch, temps to stay in the upper 70s throughout the game. Winds shifting from SSW 10-15 MPH to NNE at 3-7 MPH during the game.
Games 2 & 3 (if needed) Friday in Oxford: Sunny (no chance of rain), 79*F at first pitch, temps to stay in upper 70s during Game 2, mid to low 70s in Game 3.
Other Notes: Oxford is 12-7 in their previous three years in the playoffs. The Chargers are 0-6 when they score 2 or fewer runs this season. Oxford is 13-1 when they hold the opposition to 2 or fewer runs. In their 7 losses, Oxford has committed 26 errors (3.71 per game). In 20 wins, 37 errors (1.85 per game).