While a softball game can be controlled by one strong pitcher, the Lady Yellow Jackets have the possibility of throwing more than one solid hurler at an opponent any night.
Deep pitching has helped Oxford win 21 games and the Class 6A, Area 13 regular-season championship. It marks the Yellow Jackets’ third straight area title. They’ll host the Area 13 tournament, beginning Thursday.
“One person can’t do it all,” Oxford coach Wendy McKibbin said. “If we have one that’s a little off then there’s another one that can help. We have two that have really stepped up.”
Senior Sydney Williams and eighth-grader Jordyn Skinner have been the top two starters for the Lady Yellow Jackets, while senior Corey Elrod has come in for relief. However, McKibbin prefers Elrod playing third because she’s so strong defensively.
“Even though we have some younger pitchers, we back them up on defense and have good trust in them,” junior Lexie Higgins said.
But pitching is only one way the team has come together this year. The rest of the success can be attributed to playing all-around and, again, teamwork.
“This is our second year together for most of us after we lost a bunch of seniors two years ago,” Higgins said. “This is our new upcoming team, and we’ve learned to play together. Basically, we went out into the field knowing we needed to do something to win. We knew we had to be a team.”
And after Oxford (21-15, 5-1 in Area 13) underestimated Clay-Chalkville in area play and was defeated on the road in early March, it opened some eyes.
“Our biggest competition is going to be Clay-Chalkville because they hit the ball so well,” McKibbin said. “When we went up there we were done 8-2 and came back and went extra innings and got beat 11-10. It’s a hitters’ game, so we just have to be on that day.”
But since the loss March 4, Oxford lost its “big heads,” according to Higgins. And along the way, the Yellow Jackets also built their confidence.
“I feel very confident in us because it seems as the year goes on we’re playing better,” senior Stewart Gail Chase said. “I’m confident in area.”
But Oxford doesn’t play fourth-seed Gadsden City until 3:30 p.m. Thursday, with a possibly match-up with second-seed Clay-Chalkville at the same time the next day, so it’s sights on are games prior to the tournament first.
“We’re going on game at a time. Area isn’t even our mindset right now,” Higgins said. “Our purpose is to just have our practice and keep the true mindset to get ready for area.”
The Lady Yellow Jackets will face Class 5A third-ranked Southside-Gadsden at 5 p.m. today after falling in extra innings the night before when the two teams played each other. The game is part of the Spring Slam, which will continue throughout the weekend at Woodland Park.
“We’re getting back in our groove after having graduation exams and having rainouts like everyone else has had,” McKibbin said. “We’re hitting sporadically right now so we’ve got to get everyone hitting one through nine. But pitching and defense is good so we’re ready for the next two weeks.”
But after Spring Slam, time is all that separates Oxford and the area tournament.
“We’ve surprised a lot of people and won some big games,” McKibbin said. “We have not been out of any games we’ve played. We also have a lot of youth so the future looks good.”
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.