BACK TO BACK: Chargers walk off with second straight state title

Published 12:03 pm Friday, May 20, 2016

PEARL — Needing one more run to get an early start on the celebration, Oxford coach Chris Baughman had a request for cleanup hitter Jason Barber during Thomas Dillard’s final at-bat. Just in case.

“I said, ‘Jason, if he doesn’t do it, you make sure you hit one into this bullpen so we can dogpile at the plate,’” Baughman said.

That wasn’t necessary.

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Dillard capped the Chargers’ 10-0 rout of Hattiesburg in the second game of the MHSAA Class 5A championship series with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the sixth Thursday at Trustmark Park, helping Oxford complete a sweep of the Tigers to claim its second straight state title.

“I wasn’t trying to end my high school career with a single or anything like that,” said Dillard, who went deep twice to run his home run total to a nation-leading 16. “Ending it like that is just a blessing.”

Oxford (28-8) went back to back for the first time in school history and won its third state title overall. The Chargers outscored Hattiesburg (26-9) 15-3 in the series and have won three of their last four state finals games by way of a shutout.

The Chargers had a 4-0 lead after the first against Hattiesburg’s Joe Gray (5-2) and didn’t let up. Oxford plated four more runs in the second and another in the fourth before Dillard stepped in to lead off the Chargers’ half of the sixth, sending submariner Noah Thornton’s two-strike offering into the right-field bullpen for the run-rule victory.

“I lost last year in the state finals, so winning it this year was really big,” said Dillard, who played one season at Oxford after transferring from Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis. “Always dreamed of winning a state championship and especially winning it that way is a blessing.”

Said senior outfielder Sage Mullins, “When Thomas hit that, I don’t know if I can describe the excitement that ran through the team as we were running out. It was awesome.”

Dillard got Oxford on the board with a solo shot down the right-field line in the first and scored three runs. Mullins, Drew Bianco and Preston Perkins each had two RBIs while Houston Roth also drove in a run.

Roth, the Chargers’ senior right-hander, turned in his third straight complete game to end his high school career. The Ole Miss signee scattered three hits and worked around four walks while striking out six to finish the season 10-0.

The Tigers got a runner past second base once against Roth, who lost just two games in his varsity career, with Drew Bianco throwing out Chris Cooley at the plate in the second on Devin Lang’s infield single. Gray took the loss after allowing nine runs — only five were earned — on six hits with four walks and four strikeouts in four innings.

“(Roth) was great just like his whole career,” Baughman said. “He was great. He’s been unbelievable.

“This whole bunch of seniors is the best group of seniors to have ever worn this uniform. It’s the most talented group. I knew once we got up 4-0, it wasn’t going to be easy for them to score four runs off of us.”