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Oxford baseball uses long ball, Stinnett’s gem to rout Ridgeland in Game 1

If there was any concern of how Oxford’s quest for a third straight state championship would start out, there should be no more questions after Friday night.

With the aid of four home runs and a gem by starter Carson Stinnett, Oxford took Game 1 of their second-round series against Ridgeland in the MHSAA Class 5A playoffs, 14-1, in five innings at Edwin Moak Field.

Game 2 of the best-of-three series will be at Ridgeland on Saturday at 7 p.m.

It was the first meaningful game for Oxford in 10 days after the Chargers earned a first-round bye by earning the No. 1 seed out of Region 2-5A. After playing West Point in the regular-season finale, Oxford traveled to Madison Central and played the Jaguars last Saturday to avoid a long layoff.

“We saw really good pitching down there,” Oxford head coach Chris Baughman said. “Madison Central is always going to have a really good staff. It was good to get at-bats. We played pretty well defensively. It’s always good to play instead of sitting here and practice for 10 straight days.”

It was a wise decision as the bats came alive early for the Chargers (25-4), who scored four runs in the first inning, five runs in the second, two in the third and three runs in the fourth.

The long balls began in the opening frame as right fielder Clark Stovall made it a 4-0 game after a two-run home run that also scored first baseman Ben Bianco. The night’s next homer came from Bianco’s younger brother, Drew, as the shortstop hit a two-run home run in the second. Ben then followed suit with a solo home run of his own in the third, and Drew hit his second of the night, this one of the three-run variety, in the fourth to give the winning margin.

“It warms up here and the wind’s blowing out. My biggest fear was getting up there and trying to hit bombs,” Baughman said. “I said, ‘(The ball) is going to jump out,’ and it’s going to do the same (Saturday) if we can just stay off our front side and have good at-bats at the plate.”

On the mound, Stinnett pitched a complete game, throwing five innings of one-run baseball. He gave up three hits while striking out three and walked only one Titan batter. Efficiency was also on display for Stinnett, who threw 52 pitches, making him eligible to return after only two days rest under the new pitch count rule set by the MHSAA.

“That was huge because it gives us a shot that if there is a Game 3, he’s only on two days rest, that he could come back and close,” Baughman said. “I thought he was very efficient, pounded the zone. Really didn’t need a whole lot of offspeed. He challenged them and kept them off base.”