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Oxford baseball closes out Madison Central on the road, to face DeSoto Central in quarterfinals

Everything that Saturday’s loss personified for Oxford was different on Monday night.

On Saturday, dropping game two to Madison Central to tie the round two playoff series, Oxford committed six errors and was unable to string together enough hits. In game three of the series at Madison Central on Monday night, Oxford was crisp and efficient, beating the Jaguars 3-1 to end their season.

“We bounced back well. Maybe we got lucky in some spots, but we played really well and made plays defensively,” said head coach Chris Baughman. “You never know what’s going to happen this time of year”

Junior Owen Bruce pitched a gem in the closeout win. Bruce went 4.2 innings without giving up a hit against Madison Central, striking out seven along the way.

“I looked up there in the board in the top of the fifth and I saw zeros in the hit column,” Baughman said. “I knew he was throwing well, but he was terrific last night.”

Sam Bianco came in to close things off for Oxford. Bianco recorded the final three outs on the mound, his second save of the three-game series.

Ultimately for Oxford, the difference between Monday’s closeout game and Saturday’s 14-1 loss was the cleanliness and efficiency of play. The Chargers were sloppy in the field and on the mound Saturday. Monday was clean and crisp.

“We made plays Monday that we obviously didn’t make Saturday,” Baughman said. “That’s just the nature of the game. You can be really bad one day and turn around and be really good the next.”

With the series win, Oxford has now knocked Madison Central out of the playoffs in back-to-back years since their move from 5A to 6A baseball in the 2018 season. It’s a school with quite a bit of baseball tradition, having won three state championships since the turn of the century, including the 6A state title in 2016.

For an Oxford team playing just its second year of 6A baseball, to beat the Jaguars in back to back years, this time closing them out on the road, is a pretty remarkable achievement.

“It’s definitely special. Anytime you can beat a team with the tradition and prestige that they do, it’s special,” Baughman said. “Two years ago when we were going up to 6A, we didn’t know how we would fare. It’s definitely something I’m proud of the kids for.”

Unfortunately for Oxford, the road is not going to be getting any easier moving forward. With the win, Oxford advances to play DeSoto Central in the quarterfinal round. At 28-2, DeSoto Central has not lost to a team in the state of Mississippi all year. According to the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 national rankings, they’re the No. 9 team in the entire nation.

DeSoto Central and Oxford met once already this year, and Oxford will be doing everything in their power to make sure the game doesn’t go in a similar fashion. With the wind blowing out to center field, Oxford surrendered six home runs in the first meeting between the schools, losing 18-0 in the process. They also committed nine errors in the game.

The Chargers have potentially three games now to prove that the team they were in the first meeting back in March is different than the unit they’ll field when they meet in May. Game one of the series will be at DeSoto Central on Thursday. They’ll return home for game two Friday in Oxford before a game three back at DeSoto Central, if needed, on Saturday. All games are scheduled for 7 p.m., weather dependent.