A brief text conversation ensued.
“Luke pitches?” I asked.
“He does now!” Oxford coach Chris Baughman replied.
Early in the Chargers’ 8-6 victory at Tupelo on Saturday Baughman went looking for a pitcher to throw strikes.
After regular starter Noland Parham pitched two scoreless frames, freshmen Walker Abel and Tyler Hallam struggled to find the strike zone against the Golden Wave.
Baughman turned to Gibbs, who had started the game at shortstop.
The future Ole Miss Rebel responded.
“After (Tupelo) tied it back up we brought Luke in and he just competed the whole ball game,” Baughman said. “He threw strikes, threw it across the plate and said here it is, hit me big boy. He did a great job.”
The key to Gibbs earning a win in his first appearance on a mound since he was a freshman was keeping it simple.
“He threw a few changeups early in the game, but it wound up towards the end he didn’t have to throw many changeups. He threw a lot of fastballs and he just kind of said, ‘here it is hit me,’ and they just didn’t hit it,” Baughman said. “Pretty much all he did all game long (was fill up the zone), which is what I ask all these guys to do. When you look at Steven Whitfield and the job he’s done, that’s exactly what he has done.”
Baughman said the idea to give Gibbs a chance on the mound started earlier in the week.
“He threw, just kind of messing around, in the bullpen one day this week before a game and all the kids were like ‘Luke can throw. Luke can throw.’ In fairness to all the other kids that had been practicing on the mound and haven’t had time on the mound, we had to go with those guys first. When those two couldn’t find the zone we needed somebody to compete and I knew exactly who it was. That’s exactly what he did, he just competed his butt off,” Baughman said. “He hasn’t thrown since he was a freshman. To be quite honest, he’s just that good of an athlete and that much of a competitor. That’s what it comes down to.”
Baughman admitted he shouldn’t have been too surprised Gibbs had success pitching.
“Everywhere we’ve put him this year he has played well. If Henry (Webb) goes down, who knows, he may show up behind the plate,” Baughman joked.
Gibbs getting a tryout on the mound is only the most recent lineup change for Oxford (8-5 overall) heading into Division 2-5A play Tuesday.
With Aundrel Turner showing he can handle center field, Gibbs has made the move back to the infield.
“Right now, Luke at short and James (Lear) at second is maybe what we go with the rest of the year,” Baughman said. “James looked pretty good at second today; he looked real comfortable.”
Saturday, the Chargers scored five runs on Tupelo in the second inning, but the home team responded with a five-spot of its own in the third.
After each team scored one run in the sixth, the Chargers broke the tie with two runs in the top of the ninth.
Lear, Michael Bianco, Webb, Gibbs and Sam Hunter each had two hits in the game, while Gibbs finished with a team-high two RBIs.
Gibbs also hit two doubles. Webb and Hunter also hit doubles.
Oxford returns to the diamond on Tuesday against New Hope (9-4).
The Trojans are coming off of a 7-0 win over Caledonia on Saturday. (March 19, 2012, Page 7)