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Taking down Goliath: How Oxford baseball is approaching their playoff series with DeSoto Central

Oxford’s first meeting with DeSoto Central didn’t exactly go according to plan.

Hosting the Jaguars to cap off their spring break tournament, Oxford lost to the then 7-1 Jaguars 18-0. Now, the Chargers have won six of their last seven and are looking to show DeSoto Central that the team they’re about to face in the 6A playoff quarterfinals is not the same team they saw back in March.

“We just have to make sure that doesn’t happen in playoffs,” said senior Clay Ivy, talking about the feeling after that first meeting. “Hopefully they come in with the mindset that they beat us 18-0 and underestimate us a little bit. Hopefully we’ll make them pay for that.”

Despite the lopsided final score back in March, Oxford is far from the only team this season who has struggled with the buzz saw that is the 2019 DeSoto Central Jaguars.  At 28-2 entering this series, DeSoto Central has yet to lose a single baseball team from the state of Mississippi. The number one overall seed in the 6A playoffs, the Jaguars rank No. 9 nationally according to the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 rankings.

The thing with DeSoto Central that poses so many issues is the amount of pure individual talent on their roster. Currently, five of their starting nine are not just committed to play baseball in college, they’re committed to play baseball at an SEC school.

“We know who they are, but we have to just play our game,” said senior Cole Catalano, talking about the talent on the other side of the ball. “The base paths are still 90 feet for them. The pitching mound is still 60 feet and 6 inches away.”

Four Jaguars will be playing their college ball at Mississippi State – seniors Kamren James and Hunter French, junior Cade Smith and sophomore Blaze Jordan. Another junior, Kyle Booker, will play baseball at Tennessee. In their first meeting, it was Blaze Jordan that completely went off, scoring four times and going 3 for 3 with a home run at the plate.

However, it’s unfair to single out Jordan. There’s a number of Jaguars that can beat you. In the first game, they hit six homers – Blaze Jordan accounted for just one of them.

“You know they’re uber talented. There’s no doubt and there’s running away from it,” Baughman said. “We knew that the first time on the around and we didn’t play well at all.”

Baughman said that from a pitching perspective, it’s important to stick with what has made their guys successful thus far on the season. Certain guys will get different game plans, but ultimately it’s about doing what they do best and keeping them off balance on the plate.

What Oxford can’t do, if they want a chance to pull off the upset, is beat themselves. In the first meeting, they committed six errors. If they can’t field cleanly, they’ll have no chance. It’s an inconsistent issue they’ve had all season, like when they lost game two in the last round to Madison Central. To beat DeSoto Central, those games simply cannot happen.

“We have to make enough plays defensively to keep ourselves in the ballgame,” Baughman said. “You have to make them earn everything they get. It’s very similar to Madison Central in the approach. You have to make them earn everything and you can’t give them extra chances.”

Oxford has bounced back from bad losses before – now they’re looking to do the same with DeSoto Central. The Oxford coaches say the team always plays with a little chip on their shoulder. After that mid-season loss, the chip is a little bit bigger. Now it’s all about getting out there and playing their best baseball.

“We know they’re good, but we just have to play better and play as well as we can,” said Oxford head coach Chris Baughman. “The pressure is on them. The pressure is not on us. We’re little David over here not supposed to do anything. We’re just going to see if we can pick up enough stones for our sling shot and see what happens.”

Game one of the series is slated for Thursday at DeSoto Central. Game two will be at home Friday and game three on the road Saturday. All games currently are scheduled for 7 p.m.