What?: 5A North Half Championship - Best-of-3 Series
Where?: Trojan Field (Game 1 & - if necessary - Game 3) & Edwin Moak Field (Game 2)
When?: Game 1: Thursday, May 15th @ 7:00, Game 2: Friday, May 16th @ 7:00, Game 3: Saturday, May 17th @ 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/New Hope Game with correct corresponding date and time of game to watch)
Probable starting rotation: Oxford - So. RHP Houston Roth (12-0, 2.08), So. RHP Jason Barber (6-4, 2.07), Jr. RHP Drew Phillips (3-1, 0.54). New Hope - Sr. LHP Taylor Stafford (6-0, 1.00), Sr. RHP JC Redden (7-1, 2.10), Jr. RHP Josh Stillman (7-0, 1.04)
The Lowdown: Well, look who it is. Oxford and New Hope for North Half.
A lot of talk throughout the season was made about Lewisburg and New Hope meeting for North Half. That continued during the 2nd Round as that was all the Patriots could talk about.
They are sitting at home, probably still in disbelief their season ended (on their home field no less). Oxford instead is sitting in this spot - and they have earned it.
Oxford had to go through their tough road so far in the playoffs because of what they didn't do against New Hope during the regular season - getting the key hit, getting run support for Jason Barber, making a play on defense to preserve the run support Jason did have. All of those things ironically is what Oxford DID do to have this matchup. They got the key hit in Game 1 against Germantown, they made the defensive plays against Lewisburg and Germantown to close out those series. They gave Jason Barber a reason to keep on pitching even though Game 1 vs. Germantown was not one of his best games and put up a 4-spot to walk off and swept the series.
Oxford knows it blew chance after chance against the Trojans and they know Oxford won all three pitching matchups - Taylor Stafford in Oxford's two losses had 12 walks (more than half of his season's worth), and Barber had none, Stafford had to throw 272 pitches and was basically allowed to risk his college career in the second game. Barber had 8 perfect innings ("1-2-3" innings), Stafford just 4. The reason New Hope won their two games was because of Oxford's 7 errors that gave New Hope half of their 8 total runs in the series unearned over the three games.
New Hope clearly has had the better road with Pearl and Center Hill as their opponents - Center Hill had lost star-player and Ace pitcher Grae Kessinger for the season which derailed their season after having beaten Oxford with Kessinger. Pearl is barely among the top 10 in 5A and was the weakest 1-seed of the 4 North 1-seeds. Oxford has had to face (according to Maxpreps) the Top 2 teams after New Hope & Oxford (who hold the top 2 spots in 5A) in Lewisburg and Germantown.
Among New Hope's starting rotation listed, they have just one loss between the three - take a guess who gave it to him.
The problem with a Stafford/Barber Round 3 matchup this time? Barber was ejected during Game 2 against Germantown, meaning he is suspended for 7 innings starting with the inning after the inning in which Barber was ejected (so he has 4 more innings to serve as he sat out the last three innings). Roth would likely have to step up and pitch Game 1 should Barber have to miss the first 4 innings without winning his appeal. (Note that I listed Roth first and Barber second) In addition, if Roth has to pitch, someone would need to start at 2nd Base. A name that hasn't popped up since Spring Break? Matthew Guyton. He is approaching his 9th week since breaking his right ankle after colliding to get an out at Tupelo. He is off the boot and dressed out against Germantown for both games. He could start and bat - he was one of the hottest batters before getting injured. The only problem is that this has been a 2 month layoff and Guyton would need to catch up to the speed of the game. Ben Bianco is also an option to play at 2nd Base.
This should be a good series - both teams have detailed scouting reports. Look for a chess match.
For Oxford to win this series, they must: Not Make Errors - anytime Oxford has lost this season it is because of errors. The Chargers made 7 against New Hope in their two losses and the main reason why those two games went to New Hope.
Pitch Well - without Barber starting Game 1, someone needs to step up. Likely Houston will get the ball for Game 1 with his perfect record going up against Stafford. If they can get through Game 1 with a win, Barber will likely start Game 2.
Piece Together Hits - Another reason Oxford lost those two games was that they couldn't make Stafford pay for all those walks. The Chargers have hit Stafford before and hit Redden this year. It can be done.
For New Hope to win this series, they must: Hit Groundballs - The Trojans need to make Oxford beat them by fielding groundballs. Oxford is prone to making errors on grounders and that is the reason they have home field advantage.
Lean on Experience - they were here last year and Oxford was not. They have that experience of being this close. It will be key.
Don't Fall Down Early - the last two times Oxford has won against New Hope they had won the first inning. A good start in each game will keep their confidence up.
Weather: (For Columbus, MS loaction) Game 1 - Partly Cloudy (no chance of rain), 55*F, no wind.
Game 2 - Mostly Cloudy (no wind), 58*F, no wind.
Game 3 - Mostly Cloudy (no wind), 63*F, no wind.
Other Notes: This is Oxford's first North Half Appearance since 2011, where Oxford lost to Ridgeland in 3 games. Oxford's last meeting in the playoffs against New Hope came in 2005 for 4A North Half, where Oxford swept the Trojans 2-0 en route to the Charger's only State Title.