April 14, 2015 11:07:27 PM
For the New Hope High School baseball team, the pitching and defense part are down pat.
The offense remains a work in progress.
Senior Josh Stillman turned in a brilliant performance on the mound at Trojan Field.
However, New Hope had no offensive answers as it fell 4-0 to No. 1 Oxford in eight innings in a Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A, Region 2 contest.
"For seven innings, we held them scoreless," Stillman said. "It seemed like we had men in scoring position all night and couldn't get the big hit.
"We were right there. It's frustrating because we just needed one or two more hits."
Oxford, the state's top-ranked team, improved to 24-0 overall and 7-0 in region play. New Hope fell to 15-5 and 4-3,
The victory gives the Chargers a three-game series sweep of the Trojans.
When the playoffs begin next week, Oxford will enter as the region's No. 1 seed and New Hope will play as the region's No. 2 seed with a play-in round series against Neshoba Central set to start April 23 in New Hope.
"(Oxford is) the best team in the state for a reason," New Hope coach Lee Boyd said. "I am awfully proud of how well we played tonight.
"In the playoffs anything can happen. We just need to get in there and get on a little roll."
New Hope has won back-to-back Class 5A state championships. On the way to last season's title, New Hope beat Oxford in four of five meetings.
Oxford reversed their fortunes in the series with some dominating pitcher.
In the three regular-season meetings, Oxford outscored New Hope, 16-1.
"We are seeing improvement offensively," Boyd said. "We are not where we need to be. We know if we are going to get to where we want to go, we will have to swing the bats a lot better."
Boyd thought his team had a much better approach at the plate against Ole Miss commitment Jason Barber.
A hard-throwing junior, Barber struck out 11 and allowed two hits in a 9-0 win at New Hope on March 24.
Barber (7-0) has not allowed an earned run in 41 innings this season and Tuesday threw a complete-game three hitter.
"I thought we had much better at-bats," Boyd said. "Even though we didn't have anything to show.
"We put some pressure on them and had some threats. Barber is an outstanding pitcher but our guy stood right in there with him."
Stillman (4-2) allowed four hits through seven innings of work before being touched for four runs on four hits in the eighth inning.
"No doubt, we are gaining some confidence," Stillman said. "They are one of the best teams in the country. We know that we are right there with them. If we can compete with them, we can compete with anybody in the playoffs."
New Hope's best scoring threat came in the fourth inning when it put together three straight one-out hits by Payton Lane, Thomas Stevens and Sam Taylor.
A popup in foul territory and a strikeout looking followed and ended that threat.
New Hope managed four other base runners in the game. The Trojans turned three double plays and threw out two Chargers on the basepaths to keep things tight.
"I told our guys after the game that we had won 10 games in a row," Boyd said. "We have five losses and three of them are to Oxford.
"When Josh is on the mound, we can compete with anybody."
Follow Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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