What?: 5A North Half Title Series - Best of 3
Where?: Edwin Moak Field (Game 1 & - if necessary - Game 3) and Trojan Field (Game 2)
When?: Game 1: Tuesday, May 12th @ 7:00, Game 2: Friday, May 15th @ 7:00, Game 3: Saturday, May 16th @ 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)
Keys: CL - Clarion-Ledger Baseball Poll, MP - Maxpreps Computer Poll, MPX - Maxpreps Xcellent Top 50 National Poll, BA - Baseball America National HS Poll, UST - USA Today National HS Poll, PG - Perfect Game HS Top 50. Ranking in 5A is from Maxpreps.
Probable starting rotation: Oxford - Jr. RHP Jason Barber (9-0, 0.00 ERA), Jr. RHP Houston Roth (8-0, 1.60), Sr. LHP Dalton Markle (5-0, 1.31). New Hope* - Sr. RHP Brody Stokes (4-0, 1.74), Sr. RHP Josh Stillman (7-2, 0.96), So. RHP Peyton Buckner (4-0, 0.25)
* - Note: One decision is missing on their stats page (a win), so these stats could be inaccurate.
The Lowdown: Before I get down to it, I would like to start off with a few quotes that have been flying by the newspapers and online in the recent playoff games and a pair of tweets:
"We really want Oxford again." - Will Godfrey 4/24/15 in the Columbus Dispatch
"We want Oxford. We are going to do well because we have been waiting on them all year. There is no way they are going to beat us five times in a row." - Thomas Stevens 5/8/15 in the Columbus Dispatch
Also, they will really wish they hadn't said that. Way to give Oxford some bulletin board material. New Hope has been held to 1 total (unearned) run in three games against Oxford. Center Hill made the fatal mistake of "poking the bear" in Game 1 by one of their players using a "be quiet" gesture. One of Germantown's players entering the last series also "wanted Oxford" and waited 365 days for that chance after getting put out last year by the Chargers. Turns out he wrote a check he couldn't cash.
The second quote is like West Point during the football season. The things that have gotten them to win games over Oxford they can't do anymore and in turn has been the motivation cancer of their team. New Hope is trying to impose that much like their football team did. Here's the bottom line: It hasn't worked for Mississippi State against Ole Miss, it hasn't worked for West Point, and it won't work for New Hope. Also, seems kinda odd that Stevens was "waiting for them all year". Did he miss us the first three times during the year?
Here's the next one:
"The biggest thing is playing alongside the best defense in the state." - Brody Stokes 5/6/15 in the Columbus Dispatch
If the Trojans want to back that up, they can't have the mental errors and the real scoring errors they made against Oxford in the Chargers two trips they made to Trojan Field.
Here's one more, this one though on Oxford's end:
"These kids haven't forgotten the dogpile. It's driven them." - OHS coach Chris Baughman to the Oxford Eagle's Davis Potter posted on Twitter 5/7/15
"They're already talking about how we can't beat them five times in one year. They're talking about how bad they want Oxford." - Baughman in the Oxford Citizen 5/10/15
New Hope always want to express their distaste for Oxford in some of the most classless ways without ever being provoked. The Trojans stayed on the field for 40 minutes before finally heading on to the bus last year - on a field that is not theirs. No other team in the state would do that but them. Oxford has thought about what happened last year at Edwin Moak Field. For just about the entire season unless it was the next game on the schedule, no player has hardly said anything about wanting to play New Hope. Inside, of course they do. The entire state wants Oxford to beat New Hope. I know it because a bunch of coaches have said that over and over.
It's worth noting after Oxford's last meeting against New Hopea month ago, I made a tweet taking an indirect shot at New Hope by complimenting Ripley Baseball on reporting the score despite losing in a heartbreaker to Lafayette 5-4 in 9 innings (tweet on the left). Take a notice at the time stamps at the bottom of each tweet (and how late it was - it was four-plus hours after the game had ended at 7:09 PM in New Hope after trying to beat the weather). Hard-fought, heart-breaking, but still the presence of mind to give their fans and others following them their score. Not more than 14 minutes after making that tweet, what do I find but the tweet on the right:
That's just a few of a lot of reasons why Oxford doesn't like New Hope. They are sore-winners AND sore-losers. They don't win with class OR lose with class - especially when it comes to Oxford. If New Hope wins, Sonic the Hedgehog couldn't put up a tweet faster than they do and they stay on a visiting field just to soak it and rub it in. If New Hope loses, crickets are chirping. Nothing, na-da, they don't want to say anything about that game. Everything though is the opposite on any of Oxford's and my Twitter accounts - and that's for every sport that is kept up with.
31-0 and everything with it is the last thing on Oxford's minds (and the first thing on New Hope's minds). What they want to do is end it on their field. Oxford has beaten New Hope three times in the regular season, a feat neither was able to accomplish since becoming region opponents. That is why Oxford is coming in with all the confidence in the world.
New Hope has the worst batting averages (.268) among the three teams the Chargers have played. The Trojans have been offensively challenged all season similar to Germantown. Having the worst averages is not good when you are facing arguably the best 1-2 punch in Jason Barber and Houston Roth this state has seen in quite some time.
The Trojans do have a decent staff like Germantown (ERA sits at 1.64), but with their bats against Oxford's pitching (ERA of 1.05), they may struggle to score many runs like they did during the regular season. Oxford has proven to hit other pitchers and have proven to manufacture runs against anyone's ace. New Hope ace Josh Stillman's two of his three worst pitching performances this year have been to Oxford.
Oxford clearly has the better bats hitting .335 (or .345 according to Maxpreps) on the year, the better pitching (by far), and the better defense to back it up. There is no question who the favorite is, but Oxford has been treating the Trojans like they have been the favorite every single game thus far. If they keep this focus and mindset, that 32nd and 33rd win will come for the Chargers.
This is the series Oxford has been waiting on, whatever they decide to express it or not. The pressure is ALL on New Hope trying to defend the championship and not allowing Oxford to win five times in the same season, because you know it will be the end of the world at New Hope High School if that happens (and quite possibly if they fail to beat Oxford at all). New Hope knows it, they are just scared to admit it. The Chargers may never express it throughout the season in any newspaper or online or even been disciplined enough to not do it on Twitter, but these Chargers have been focused since day one of going into their offseason - and what happened last year in that series is the biggest reason why. Some other players may never saw what happened last year such as Grae Kessinger and Dalton Markle, but after three games against the Trojans, they know how much it means to beat New Hope twice more.
For Oxford to Win This Series, They Must: Not Give the New Hope Bats A Chance - In other words, continue that dominating pitching Oxford has given this year. The Trojans has proven they will crack at some point during the game.
No Baserunning Miscues - of the 63 outs Oxford has had on offense against New Hope, 6 have been due to getting picked-off, caught stealing, or not reading a line drive correctly. Make "the best defense in the state" earn every out.
Don't Look Back - Everything is in the past, Oxford will get New Hope's best shot. Like the other 31 games though, Oxford will give New Hope their best shot. Let the pitching and defense do their thing, and the offense will take care of itself.
For New Hope to Win This Series, They Must: Win A Pitcher's Duel - Oxford obviously has great pitching to the point where the Chargers haven't given up more than 5 runs in any game this season. The pitching staff must find a way to silence the bats beyond Stillman or they won't win this series.
Manufacture Runs - Leadoff hit, steal second, bunt to third, sac fly him home. That is really the best way to score against Oxford. If the Chargers are going to be beaten, scrapping runs and holding down the Oxford bats to a minimum is the blueprint. No team has powered their way past Oxford and it hasn't worked.
Don't Run Out of an Inning - because you've seen Oxford's ERA, the Chargers can't be given cheap outs.
For Game 2 (for Columbus, MS location): 80*F, Thunderstorms (80% chance of rain), winds from S (out to LF) at 5-10 MPH.
For Game 3 (if needed): 75*F, Clear (20% chance of rain), winds from S (out to RF) at 5-10 MPH. Temps to drop to low 60s by 10 PM.
Other Notes: Oxford has won 4 of the last 5 at New Hope. Oxford has had 8 error-free games this year and and 17 games where Oxford committed one error or less. Last year the Chargers amassed only one error-free game. This is the first time since at least 1993 Oxford has home-field advantage for the North Half Series (2005, 2011, and 2014 Oxford did not have home field).