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Chargers cruise in 5A playoff opener

The Oxford Chargers took on the Center Hill Mustangs in the second round of the MHSAA Class 5A playoffs Thursday, cruising to an 11-2 win in Game 1 of the series.

Game 2 will be Saturday at 2 p.m. at Center Hill.

The Mustangs did not hesitate to get things started with a leadoff single coming from Parker Haberstroh. Two batters later, CJ Dunn would hit a two-run homer that would give Center Hill an early 2-0 lead over the Chargers.

The Chargers would respond quickly and with force. Back-to-back home runs coming from Grae Kessinger and Drew Bianco would shift momentum in favor of the Chargers midway through the second inning. This is after an error on the side of Center Hill that allowed Sage Mullins to get on base with two outs. Center Hill pitcher Frankie Hefflinger would walk the next batter, Tag Gatlin, setting up Duncan Graeber with a favorable scenario. A line drive over the left fielder’s head would drive in two runs, all before Kessinger and Bianco had even stepped to the plate. A seemingly shaken Hefflinger would give up four hits and five runs in the second inning but managed to regain his composure to end the inning on a positive note. The Chargers would lead 5-2 at the end of the second.

Oxford Chargers pitcher Jason Barber limited the opportunities for the Mustangs to generate any offense. With five strikeouts in the game, Barber found himself in a tough situation after a rare walk and hitting Drew Hurdle, the bases were loaded with Regan Kuluz stepping up to the plate. With the pressure on, Barber needed a strikeout to save the Chargers from giving up their three-run lead. Barber would send Kuluz back to the bench, getting Barber his sixth strikeout, this one coming after only four pitches.

Limiting errors was a problem for Center Hill, first with the error in the second inning leading to a five-run inning from the Chargers. Another error in the fourth inning, a missed pop up into left field, let two runs score, giving the Chargers a 7-2 lead. The Chargers continued to have a strong fourth inning, finishing with three runs scored on three hits, adding to the lead, putting the Chargers up 8-2 heading into the top of the fifth inning.

While Barber would continue to hold Center Hill scoreless for the rest of the game after giving up two runs in the first inning, the Chargers’ offense would give Barber the support he needed to close out a Game 1 victory over the Mustangs. With another Charger home run, this time a three-run shot coming from Thomas Dillard, gave Oxford an 11-2 lead heading into the top of the sixth. The game may have been out of reach, but Barber continued to deliver the heat, accumulating multiple strikeouts.

To add the the excitement of the game, all of the 11 Charger runs were unearned, all coming with two outs against them.