Oxford baseball squares off with Hernando in North Half semis

Published 5:00 am Friday, May 6, 2022

The Oxford baseball team continues their quest for a state title this weekend as they take on Region 3-6A champion Hernando in the MHSAA Class 6A North Half semifinals.

The Tigers (23-7, 9-0 Region 3-6A) closed their regular season on a 14-game winning streak before losing to Germantown in their first playoff game on Apr. 29, racking up double-digit runs in nine of those games as they raked through opponents with a relentless offensive approach.

They are led by freshman Luke Romine, who led the team in batting average (.519), on-base percentage (.642), slugging percentage (.938), RBIs (42), runs (34) and home runs (8).

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The talented lefty is also second on the team in earned run average among qualified pitchers, posting an ERA of 2.81 in 10 appearances.

The Chargers (21-8, 7-2 Region 1-6A) defeated Center Hill in two games in the second round to earn a matchup with the Tigers, who back-ended the Mavericks in their second round series after dropping game one at home.

First-year head coach Cade Hoggard’s squad enters the series as winners in 10 of their last 12 contests. The Chargers found an offensive rhythm midway through the season after struggling to string together quality at-bats earlier in the year, scoring 8.95 runs per game after Mar. 5.

Six Chargers boast a batting average above .300, including catcher Campbell Smithwick who paces the team with a .453 line. Three players have recorded at least 30 hits on the season, and four have driven in 25 or more runs.

Oxford has also enjoyed quality pitching performances from senior Dixon Webb, who is 9-1 in 11 appearances this season with an ERA of 1.31. Fellow senior Ty Wicker has also posted a sub-2.00 ERA, giving up 1.20 runs per nine innings in his nine appearances. The everyday shortstop has primarily been used as a closer throughout the season however, and will not likely be asked to churn through many innings.

Oxford leaned on Webb to get them through the biggest games of their season this year, but they will need better production from the likes of sophomore Brady Stinnett, junior Vaiden Ellis and sophomore Jack Harper if they want to slow down a high-powered Hernando lineup that plated 8.2 runs per contest this season.

The Chargers will have their hands full against a talented Tigers squad, and will need to string together some quality performances on the mound in order to reach their first North Half title game since 2018.

Game one of the series is set to begin at 7 p.m. on Friday at Edwin Moak Field. Oxford will travel to Hernando for game two at 7 p.m. on Saturday before returning home to host the Tigers for game three at 7 p.m. on Monday if necessary.