Chargers head back to 5A title series

Published 6:03 am Sunday, May 15, 2016

GRENADA — Oxford has its chance to repeat.

Behind another strong outing from Houston Roth and some help from the bottom of the lineup, Oxford finished a sweep of Grenada on Friday with a 6-3 win at Charger Field to capture its second straight MHSAA Class 5A North Half championship and clinch its spot in the state championship series. Oxford (26-8) will try to defend last year’s title against Hattiesburg, which knocked off Pearl River Central in South Half, in a best-of-three series beginning Tuesday ay 7 p.m. at Trustmark Park in Pearl.

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“I’m just proud we have the opportunity to go back and do it again, or try to do it again,” Oxford coach Chris Baughman said. “We hope we play our best down there and see what happens.”

Roth, an Ole Miss signee, turned in his second complete game in as many starts to improve to 9-0 despite struggling with his command at times. The senior right-hander got more support from an offense that was bottled up 48 hours earlier.

After mustering just three hits in Wednesday’s 2-1 win in extras against Grenada ace Caleb Morgan, Oxford finished with 10 hits against Bradley Sanford and Dane Bevell, six of those coming from the last five spots in the order. Oxford led 6-1 after four at-bats with Roth helping his own cause with a two-run double in the first.

Nine-hole hitter Duncan Graeber was 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles. Leadoff man Grae Kessinger led Oxford with three hits and an RBI while Drew Bianco, Thomas Dillard and Jason Barber each drove in a run.

“They got us going,” Baughman said. “(Graeber) was huge. Sage (Mullins) was huge. The bottom of the order was huge.”

It was plenty to work with for Roth, who gave up his first two earned runs since March 29 but didn’t allow Grenada (25-5) to get any consistent offense going while pitching around three errors. Roth scattered five hits while walking one and striking out six, keeping Grenada at a distance throughout.

Oxford’s Houston Roth improved to 9-0 in the complete-game win, allowing two earned runs on five hits with six strikeouts. (Davis Potter)

Oxford’s Houston Roth improved to 9-0 in the complete-game win, allowing two earned runs on five hits with six strikeouts. (Davis Potter)

“Errors happen. They were hard plays,” Roth said. “There weren’t any just any easy plays that they made mistakes on. I was more frustrated with my command when I had two strikes and giving them a chance when they shouldn’t have had a chance on some pitches.”

One of those pitches came in the fourth when Roth left one up to Sanford, who belted a solo homer to left. Grenada plated another run in the sixth on Sanford’s groundout following a leadoff double by Morgan, but Roth, who got a strikeout of Gage Little in the fifth to leave a runner in scoring position, retired five of the final six batters he faced to put Oxford one step closer to another championship.

“It was good enough,” Roth said of his command. “I kept hitters off balance with off-speed stuff, and I kept stuff down when I was in the zone. It worked out.

“Us going (to state) back-to-back years, it’s just surreal. It’s just awesome.”

Sanford took the loss after allowing six runs (five earned) on five hits and issuing three walks in the first three innings. Devarious Wilborn had two hits for Grenada.