Prep baseball: Oxford's pair of southpaws providing playoff momentum
May 8—It's hard to beat a pair of aces.
That's the hand dealt to Oxford baseball, which has gotten winning performances this postseason from Hayes Harrison and Hayden Gallahar, a pair of ace pitchers.
Heading into Wednesday's best-of-3 state semifinal series against Cullman, Oxford has gotten this far with plenty of help from the left-handed duo.
Harrison and Gallahar, both seniors, have combined to pitch 28 of Oxford's 36 playoff innings (77.78 percent) with either Harrison or Gallahar appearing in all but one game.
"Anytime you've got a left-hander on the mound, you've got a chance to win," Oxford coach Wes Brooks said.
In his 14 innings, Harrison has a 0.50 ERA and is averaging eight strikeouts per seven innings.
In Gallahar's 14 innings, he boasts a 1.00 ERA averaging 9.5 strikeouts per seven innings.
The two have also kept minimal batters from reaching bases on balls, with Harrison logging one walk so far in the playoffs and Gallahar allowing just two.
The playoff success for the two southpaws started with Harrison's first batter faced in Oxford's first-round swee of Center Point, which he struck out on three pitches.
The Northwest-Shoals Community College signee went on to pitch two hitless innings and struck out three. After the Yellow Jackets gained a 6-0 lead, Harrison was pulled from the mound.
The southpaw needed just 35 pitches to get through nine batters, eight of which he struck out.
"Throw a lot of strikes, fill it up," Gallahar said after the sweep. "I'm not gonna blow it by you. I'm gonna make you hit it and I'm gonna make you put it in play and let my defense make a play for me. That's how it is."
Brooks said that while being a lefty helps confuse batters, Gallahar's submarine pitches also give opponents a hard time.
"He's our go-to guy as far as like, if we're down a couple of runs or if we're ahead by a few runs to hold the game where it's at," Brooks said after the first-round sweep. "He goes out there and fills up the zone, it's a different look, it's a submarine lefty."
Since the sweep of Center Point, the two have been a 1-2 punch for Oxford, with either Harrison or Gallahar pitching 23 of Oxford's last 26 innings of baseball.
Most recently against Hartselle, Harrison provided a complete-game gem in Game 1 as he allowed just five hits and earned one run while walking one and striking out four.
"I felt like just another left-hander that can throw strikes could hold them in check," Brooks said. "And, he did."
In Game 2, Gallahar continued his success, pitching the first six innings and allowing seven hits and three runs (two earned) while walking one and striking out six.
As Oxford prepares to face off against Cullman in the semifinal round of the Class 6A playoffs, Gallahar will continue to embrace the opportunity presented to him as a leader on Oxford's pitching staff.
"You just embrace it, it's next man up," Gallahar said after Oxford's first-round sweep. "That's how everything is, that's how life is. When your opportunity comes, you've just got to accept it, and you either rise to the occasion or you fall to it. That's just how it works."
Sports Writer Thomas Ashworth: 256-236-1551. On Twitter: @ThomasAshworth0.