By Rob Patrick
JONESBORO — The Bryant Senior American Legion players that were on the Junior Black Sox team last season, may have remembered Alex Markum all too well.
Last July, in the Junior State Tournament, Markum started the opening game for Paragould against the Sox and held them to five hits while going the distance in a 4-2 win.
Both teams wound up making it to the semifinals. Paragould lost to eventual runner-up Texarkana and Bryant lost to eventual champion Sheridan.
The Senior Sox got reacquainted with Markum on Saturday in much less urgent circumstances in the Ray King Classic at Arkansas State’s Tomlinson Stadium.
And he still has their number.[more]
Markum shut out the Senior Sox on two hits through five innings and, when he ran into trouble in the sixth, got clutch relief help from Kyle Brown as Paragould 7-Up pinned a 3-1 win on Bryant, now 4-2.
Sox starter Blake Davidson was just as tough. He walked no one and Paragould only managed five hits but scored a pair of unearned runs to provide the difference.
The 7-Up team was set to play for the tournament championship on Sunday evening against the winner of Saturday’s late game between the Fayetteville Lindsey & Associates Dodgers and the Jonesboro Ricemen. Bryant was set to play the loser of that contest Sunday afternoon.
“He threw a heck of a ballgame,” Bryant manager Darren Hurt said of Markum. “He kept us off balance. I don’t know if he did it on purpose. He was wild at times. But he’d throw you a high fastball then break one off at your knees. His fastball was getting on us pretty good. The kids just weren’t picking it up real well.
“We couldn’t get much going,” he continued. “There for a while we couldn’t even scratch around and get anybody on base. Then we finally get a little something going and we couldn’t get a key hit.
“We’re struggling right now to get any hits period,” Hurt said.But the Sox were making contact. They struck out just once in their 1-0 win over Cabot on Friday then just three times against the Paragould duo.
“It wasn’t a lack of want-to or anything,” Hurt added. “The kids are frustrated. They’re wanting to go up there and get the big hit and maybe that’s the problem. They just need to relax and go up there. It wasn’t three or four days ago, we were knocking the cover off it. We’ve just got to get back to that.”
The Sox manager acknowledged that one of the reasons the team was in Jonesboro was to play some good competition it doesn't normally see. The surprise of playing Cabot on Friday after being scheduled to play Batesville notwithstanding, Bryant will have faced two foes from outside the central Arkansas area.
Davidson retired the first six he faced while the Sox made some early noise, forcing Markum to throw 42 pitches over the first two innings. In the opening frame, Jordan Taylor singled and Hunter Mayall walked with one down. They advanced on Chris Joiner’s bouncer to first but got no further as Markum got Brennan Bullock to ground to short.
In the second, a two-out walk to Dylan Cross and a wild pitch got him in scoring position. Tyler Brown followed with a lined shot but it was right to Paragould second baseman Tyler Wooldridge.
Paragould’s first hit was a single up the middle by Logan Buck to start the third. Wooldridge tried the sacrifice but bunted right back to Davidson who got the force at second. Wooldridge barely beat the relay to first, avoiding a doubleplay.
And that proved important. Josh Tarry was thrown out on a tap to the left of the mound as Wooldridge advanced to second. Three pitches later, Trent Wooldridge, the Paragould lead-off hitter, slapped a single to left to score his brother.
After the Sox went down in order in the third on just three pitches, Brown opened the fourth with a single. A passed ball allowed him to take second so that, when John Wheeler chopped a single that bounced over the head of Bryant third baseman Lucas Castleberry, Brown was able to score.
Davidson retired the next two to keep it 2-0.
In the bottom of the fourth, Joiner ripped a shot off of the body of Markum for a single. Trying to get something starter, Hurt put Joiner in motion on a 3-2 pitch to Bullock who shot a liner that looked like it might get into right-center only to have Tyler Wooldridge climb the ladder, snagging the ball at the apex of his leap. When he came down, he was able to double up Joiner taking the starch out of Bryant’s scoring bid.
Davidson worked around a lead-off error in the top of the fifth but Markum needed just seven pitches to retire the Sox in the home half.
In the sixth, Kyle Brown singled and stole second. Davidson came back to strike out Paragould clean-up hitter Travis Moe for the third time only to have the third strike get past catcher B.J. Ellis. Moe reached first as Brown took third on the play.
Davidson fanned Wheeler then, on a 3-2 pitch, got Exon Moncada to fly to center. But, instead of it being the final out of the inning, it served as a sacrifice fly as Brown just beat center fielder Caleb Garrett’s throw to the plate.
Bryant finally caught up to Markum in the sixth when Garrett lashed the first pitch to left of a single then advanced on a wild pitch and took third on a passed ball by Moe. Taylor followed with a shot into the left-field corner for an RBI double.
That’s when Markum gave way to Kyle Brown.
But Brown walked Mayall on five pitches to put the potential tying runs on base with nobody out. Joiner, trying to sacrifice, took a strike then popped out to short. A wild pitch got Taylor to third and Mayall to second but Brown kept them there by fanning Bullock and getting Brady Butler to tap back to the mound.
Davidson set down Paragould in short order in the top of the seventh. Landon Pickett led off the bottom of the inning with a solid shot but it was right at the second baseman. Ellis popped out and, after Tyler Brown drew a four-pitch walk, Brown fanned Garrett to end it.
Like Friday's game, Saturday's well-pitched contest lasted less than 90 minutes.
PARAGOULD 3, BRYANT 1
Senior American Legion
7-Up ab r h bi Black Sox ab r h bi
TrWooldridge, cf 4 0 1 1 Garrett, cf 4 1 1 0
Gather, ss 3 0 0 0 Taylor, ss 3 0 2 1
K.Brown, rf-p 3 2 2 0 Mayall, dh 1 0 0 0
Moe, c 3 0 0 0 Joiner, rf 3 0 1 0
Wheeler, dh 3 0 1 1 Bullock, lf 3 0 0 0
Moncada, 1b 2 0 0 1 Butler, 1b 3 0 0 0
Buck, 3b 3 0 1 0 Castleberry, 3b 1 0 0 0
TyWooldridge, 2b 3 1 0 0 Pickett, 3b 2 0 0 0
Tarry, lf 2 0 0 0 Cross, c 1 0 0 0
Markum, p 0 0 0 0 Ellis, c 1 0 0 0
Sample, rf 0 0 0 0 T.Brown, 2b 2 0 0 0
Davidson, p 0 0 0 0
Totals 26 3 5 3 Totals 24 1 4 1
Paragould 001 101 0 — 3
BRYANT 000 001 0 — 1
E—Castleberry. DP—Paragould 1. LOB—Paragould 4, Bryant 6. 2B—Taylor. SB—K.Brown. S—Tarry. SF—Moncada.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Markum (W) 5 1 1 4 2 1
K.Brown (S) 2 0 0 0 2 2
Davidson (L) 7 3 1 5 0 7
WP—Markum 2, K.Brown 1. PB—Cross, Moe, Ellis.