He tried and tried and tried and tried again to no avail.
But the Oxford senior dug deep and came up with a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the 13th inning to lift the Yellow Jackets to a 3-2 win in Game 1 of their series against Pell City in the second round of the AHSAA Class 6A state playoffs at Bud McCarty Field.
His shot to right field catapulted the Yellow Jackets to a sweep against their area foe to advance to the state quarterfinals. The Yellow Jackets defeated the Panthers 5-2 in Game 2, taking care of business in a timely, workman-like fashion.
Prior to his game-winning shot, Goodson, a University of Alabama commit who was named the Alabama Sports Writers Association Hitter of the Year as a junior, was 0-for-5.
Pell City ace Cole Billingsley struck Goodson out each of the four times he faced him in nine innings, the maximum any pitcher is able to go by rule. Ryan Salter, the Panthers’ No. 2 pitcher, came on in the 10th. He rang Goodson up for a strikeout for the second out of the inning in the bottom of the 11th.
But even with his many failures, Oxford coach Wes Brooks said there wasn’t a guy on his roster he’d rather have at the plate in that situation.
“Since the middle of last year, Mathew’s been our team leader,” Brooks said. “If there’s anybody I want to have up in a big-time, big-game situation, it’s Mathew.”
And, believe it or not, Goodson was just as confident as he was during his first at-bat in his sixth trip to the plate during the game.
“You just gotta keep grinding, man. You gotta persevere,” Goodson said. “It’s a game of failure. You gotta believe in yourself. If you were in my shoes, you’re 0-for-5 with five Ks. It’s the thirteenth inning. Let’s get it done.”
Tucker Simpson and Will Davis had two hits apiece and Jackson Stephens added a sacrifice fly in Game 1.
The Yellow Jackets (33-11) will face the Sparkman-Buckhorn winner in the quarterfinals next week.
While Goodson’s offense propelled fourth-ranked Oxford to the victory, the Yellow Jackets’ defense led them to it. The Panthers threatened to put the go-ahead run on the board several times in extra innings but the Yellow Jackets came up with big plays to quell their rallies time and time and time again.
Pell City’s best chance to pull off a Game 1 upset came in the top of the tenth.
Jackson Stephens, who’d come for Oxford’s Game 1 starter Tucker Simpson, hit speedy Pell City leadoff hitter Justin Morgan to start the inning. Morgan stole second and Billingsley, the next batter up, grounded out to move him to the third with three-hole hitter Alex Jones up next.
Morgan was called out on a play at the plate following a relay from Oxford catcher Alex Muncher to Stephens on a passed ball which left Morgan staring in bewilderment at the home plate umpire. Stephens got out the inning when he picked off a runner at first.
Pell City’s Dylan Calhoun tripled with one out in the eleventh. But Stephens, also signed to Alabama, came up big again, picking off Calhoun at third and striking out Casey Seals to retire the side.
Salter struck out Oxford’s Davis with runners on first and second in the bottom of the eleventh and Zach Lovvorn in the bottom of the twelfth.
Pell City (29-17) had a chance in the thirteenth with the bases loaded and two outs. But Stephens fanned Calhoun on a 3-2 pitch to set up Goodson’s heroics.
“Great players do great things and I think everybody on this team is a great player,” Stephens said. “We were blessed and they (big plays) just came at the right time. Everybody did a great job. It wasn’t just one person. It was everybody.”
Stephens earned the win in Game 1, striking out 11 while allowing no runs on two hits in six innings.
Goodson led the way again offensively in Game 2 with four RBIs, including a three-run homer in the second to break the game open. Joe McGuire had had two hits. Taylor McCracken had a double and Lovvorn added a sacrifice fly.
Lovvorn earned the win, allowing no earned runs on one hit while walking three and striking out one in four innings. Frazier Taylor came on and struck out three while giving up three hits over the final three innings.
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports. He can be reached at 235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word