OXFORD — The perennial favorite remains so in the Calhoun County baseball tournament, and a new team has entered the conversation about teams that could make a run.
Oxford (6-3) was the unanimous pick as the top seed for this year’s tournament, which begins Friday at runs through Tuesday at Choccolocco Park.
In a 7-6 vote, county coaches voted Alexandria (2-3) as the No. 2 seed over No. 3 seed Piedmont (3-3), which made the Class 3A finals a year ago but lost key players, most notably pitcher Taylor Hayes and catcher Easton Kirk.
Rounding out the top five seeds in the 13-team field were No. 4 Jacksonville (3-4) and No. 5 Pleasant Valley (5-2), which made headlines with a 5-0 start coming off last year’s two-round run in the 3A playoffs.
For Class 6A Oxford, the defending champion, players change, but the seed remains the same.
Oxford coach Wes Brooks called the Yellow Jackets’ start “a little bit of a rollercoaster, as far as the scoreboard goes.”
Key losses from last season include Nate Lloyd, Judd Moore, Jacob Sears, catcher Derek Miller. Key fill-ins this year include Tate Adams, Lloyd’s backup the past three years at third base, who went 6-for-8 on Saturday in Brooks’ “quality at-bats” statistic.
The pitching rotation of Jarin Turner, Brody Syer and Hayden Green has returns.
“It’s almost like we’ve got a 1A, 1B and 1C now,” Brooks said. “Hayden Green has done well. He no-hit Mountain Brook on Monday and beat Spain Park yesterday.”
Several teams in the mix behind Oxford are “all about the same,” Alexandria coach Andy Shaw said.
He said the Valley Cubs are searching for a new No. 1 pitcher to fill in for Austin Goode. Football all-state pick Grayson Chaffin has become an intriguing new addition, bringing speed to the outfield and pop at the plate.
Pleasant Valley brings intrigue as a new face among the top five seeds.
The Raiders’ first-round playoff victory a year ago won them a home playoff series against Elkmont in the second round. They lost the best-of-three series in three games, but the breakthrough boosted the program.
“It was a big deal for us,” Raiders coach Chris Youngman said. “We go to the second round, and we’re at home. Friday night, there were about 400 people at a baseball game in Pleasant Valley.
“The guys realized we’ve got something special. Laying that foundation made us realize we can be a great ball team if we just mentally prepare and do the work that it takes.”
The Raiders had to fill five of nine starting spots this season.
“Guys have really stepped up and stepped into positions,” Youngman said. “We’re off to a good start and excited about it.”