By John Davis
It has been 10 years since the Oxford Chargers reigned supreme in the state on the baseball diamond. The goal every season for the Chargers has been to reclaim that moment and put a second trophy in their case. Oxford heads into the 2015 MHSAA playoffs as the top team in Class 5A, and the state, thanks to its perfect regular season.
The Chargers have played 27 games and come away winners in all 27. It’s the first time in school history that they have accomplished that. Now, with the Chargers the No. 1 seed out of 2-5A, they are that much closer to claiming that second title.
Head coach Chris Baughman is aware that the interest the perfect season has created across the state, but once the playoffs begin, each team has a clean slate, and every team is 0-0 again.
“We know when somebody steps on the field with us, we’re going to get their best shot and they’re going to want to beat Oxford,” Baughman said. “People want to beat Oxford anyway, but especially when you’re No. 1 in the state and undefeated. People want to knock you off the pedestal. I think when you get to the playoffs, everyone is trying to beat everyone else. You’re trying to win two out of the three games, no matter what went on during the year.”
While Baughman felt like the motivation of being the first team to defeat the Chargers will be used by the team they match up with, they key was continuing to play as well as they have.
“We’re used to that role and these kids enjoy it,” Baughman said. “They like being No. 1 in the state and they want to continue being No. 1 in the state. It’s going to take not backing down after someone takes a swing at us. We’re going to get Center Hill’s best swing, Germantown’s best swing or Lewisburg’s or Pearl’s best swing. Then we’ll get the South’s best swing if we can get there. We have to make sure we take care of our business and keep taking care of us and playing our brand of baseball.”
The Chargers are far from the only really competitive club in 5A, and the state, this season. Germantown heads into the playoffs with an impressive 21-2 record. Lewisburg, the team the Chargers defeated in the 2014 playoffs, were 19-7 and top seed out of 1-5A. Pearl also posted an impressive record in 4-5A and was close to garnering 20 wins overall prior to the start of the playoffs.
“Center Hill is also tough, Lewisburg is great, New Hope played us tooth and nail in two out of the three games we played with them,” Baughman said. “Germantown is just going to be tough. We have to take it one game at a time. That’s how this regular season is really going to help us. We haven’t really looked at being undefeated. What we’ve constantly looked at is winning the next game. That’s what we’re going to do in the playoffs.”
Some of the other top teams in the 5A ranks include South and West Jones. Pearl River Central, who went 9-0 in its region, was there along with West Harrison and George County who were on top in the other two regions.
In 6A, Northwest Rankin has produced a banner season with over 20 wins and an undefeated mark against its region foes. Oak Grove and Petal, two programs that have produced several successful baseball teams over the years, each had 17 wins and were within a game of each other in the region heading into the last week of the regular season. Harrison Central and Gulfport battled neck and neck in 7-6A, while Ocean Springs took 8-6A. One of the most talented teams is also in 1-6A. DeSoto Central has played one of the toughest schedules this season, and finished with 19 wins heading into the playoffs.
In 4A, Saint Stanislaus, North Pike, Magee, Newton County and Northeast Jones are just a few of the schools that will be in the mix. Lafayette posted an undefeated record in 2-4A, while Houston and West Lauderdale represented 4-4A very well. Itawamba AHS and Pontotoc are two other schools in 4A north that have posted a good winning percentage and been consistent during the season.
In 3A, Sumrall, one of the top programs over the last decade, took the 8-3A title. Southeast Lauderdale and St. Andrews were also winners in their regions. Belmont and Water Valley posted impressive runs to top spots in 1-3A and 2-3A, respectively. Taylorsville, Loyd Star and Enterprise were all undefeated in region play in 2A. Strayhorn, East Webster, Leland and Hatley were teams from 2A north that were on top of their respective regions.
In Class 1A, Pine Grove, Ingomar, St. Joseph and Smithville were leading the way, with Nanih Waiya, French Camp Academy, Cathedral and Stringer being some of the top teams from the south in 1A.