By Drew Ellis firstname.lastname@example.org; @ellisdrew
Despite beating the Wildcats by a combined score of 23-1 in three games during the regular season, the Dragons didn't have an answer for a motivated Oxford team in Monday's Division 1 district baseball final. The Wildcats never trailed, as they went on to earn a 9-1 victory over Lake Orion. The district championship is the first in 11 years for Oxford as the Wildcats were able to follow the postseason success of some of the other programs in the school during the 2018-19 year. "I am so proud of my guys. We haven't won a district since 2008 and that was one of our team goals, to represent just like our football team did, like our basketball team did," Oxford coach Dave Herrick said. "It was our time to represent and uphold the community. I am so proud of the guys."
Early on, Oxford had to rely on its senior on the mound, Evan Brunning. As the Wildcats were held scoreless in the first three innings, Brunning kept Lake Orion off the scoreboard as well. The Dragons were held without a hit for the first five innings and any walks they were able to draw didn't lead to a scoring threat. Brunning finished with six scoreless innings on the mound, striking out three. "He gave us six great innings of everything he had," Herrick said of Brunning. "It was awesome to watch. I am so proud of him."
Oxford started to find some offense in the fourth inning as Tanner Stokes just missed hitting a home run to center field, settling for a two-run double instead that would spark a three-run inning. Stokes would get that home run he was looking for in his next plate appearance, as he hit a two-run shot over the left field fence as part of a five-run fifth for the Wildcats. "That felt pretty good off the bat," Stokes said of his home run. "My adrenaline started running a little bit and I got really excited. Just (for the home run) to be in the district championship, too, is a nice experience." Oxford was held to the lone run against Lake Orion over three games during the regular season, but the Wildcats had nine runs on nine hits in Monday's win over the OAA Red champs.
Stokes finished with four RBI to lead Oxford while he, Brady Carpenter and Ryan Upton each had two hits.
Prior to Monday's final, Oxford closed out a 3-0 win over Clarkston in the district semifinals. The game was stopped on Saturday due to storms in the second inning. Jesse Burch finished with a complete-game, one-hitter with eight strikeouts to get the win.
"This is my fifth year and I've never seen a group of Oxford baseball players show up that intense for that long," Herrick said of his players' mindsets on Monday. "We would have little glimpses of it. Saturday, we really had the momentum going against Clarkston and then the rain came, but the boys showed up with the same intensity all day (Monday). It was really fun to watch. I was hoping that rain delay didn't hurt us."
Oxford advances to Wednesday's regional semifinals, where it will face Birmingham Brother Rice at 4:30 p.m. at Warrior Park.