The Oxford Chargers baseball team is hard at work preparing for the 2020 baseball season.
The team is looking to bounce back from an early exit in last year’s playoffs when they lost a best of three series to Desoto Central.
The Chargers will rely heavily on the senior class this year, carrying 11 seniors total. They will also return five everyday starters from a very competitive bunch in 2019.
Sam Bianco, Ty Wicker, Eli Wicker, Hays Roth and Lock Elliot are the Chargers’ returning starters, and they will look to improve on what was deemed to be a subpar 2019 season.
Sam Bianco, who is committed to Louisiana Lafayette, spoke about the team’s drive to exercise this revenge.
“They [Desoto Central] have put us out of playoffs the past two years and our Oxford team is looking forward to ending that streak,” he said.
The Chargers will first have to take care of a very different, yet difficult, division. The Chargers’ division now consists of Horn Lake, Hernando and Southaven. Tupelo is now part of another division.
Chris Baughman, the head baseball coach at Oxford High School, said the new division opponents will present challenges for the team.
“Hernando traditionally provides the toughest test of our division opponents. They are very well-coached and play hard year-in and year-out,” Baughman said. “Southaven is another team that will be extremely athletic and scrappy and is a playoff team every year. Horn Lake is young but has a really good left-handed pitcher who will keep them in several division games.”
Not only do the Chargers have to deal with a difficult division, but they also have a tough non-division schedule that will test them early and often.
“We pride ourselves on playing a challenging schedule every year,” Baughman said.
Baughman has scheduled teams from different states to help challenge the Chargers this season, including perennial powers Hoover High School in Alabama and Houston High School in Tennessee.
In order to compete with these teams, Baughman has implemented an offseason workout plan that includes working out five times a week. Ben Mikell, the public address announcer and scoreboard operator for the baseball team, spoke about how players have developed from the grueling fall workouts.
“It first starts in the weight room with head strength coach Jason Wilfawn,” Mikell said. “That’s always the first place to look when improving from year to year. If the job isn’t being done in the weight room, then they won’t be able to compete on the field.”
Despite the same sort of routine as years past, both Bianco and Eli Wicker feel like something is different about this year’s group.
“I think our biggest strength is our team’s bond. Particularly this year we have a very close-knit group,” Bianco said.
“We all have played a lot of innings together and spent a lot of time off the field with each other. I think that plays a big role in the success of this team,” Wicker said.
The Chargers have not won a state championship since the memorable 2016 senior class left Oxford High School. Grae Kessinger, Thomas Dillard, Houston Roth and Greer Holston made up one of the most prolific lineups in the state. Oxford High School would finish the year ranked No. 1 in the state of Mississippi, according to MaxPreps.com.
The 2017 and 2018 seasons saw Oxford make deep runs in the playoffs, but they could never get over the hump, losing in the state championship in 2017 and the Final Four in 2018.