By Chuck Livingston Sports Editor
Opening Day at John Robbins field in Marion produced a high-scoring loss for the home team. The Patriots ended up with more hits than Paragould, but the Rams were able to post three innings of multiple runs to spoil the festivities, 9-7. Perhaps the biggest reason for the Paragould victory was 13 walks issued by Marion pitching, five of which came around to score. “When you walk 13 people, there’s not much you can do,” said Marion head coach Daniel Kelley. Marion’s offense must have been a pleasant surprise for Kelley, however. The Patriots pounded out eight hits in the game, but the hosts also left nine runners on base, five of which came in the game’s final three innings. Senior right-hander Peyton Moore got the start for Marion, and worked into the third inning, pitching 2 and 2/3 innings, allowing four earned runs, five hits and issuing four walks. Paragould struck first with three runs in the first inning, an inning in which their first three hitters all reached base and scored. Marion was held off of the scoreboard until the home-half of the third, and trailed 5-0. With one out, lead-off man Heath Stephenson came up with Marion’s first hit of the season on a single to right field. That hit was quickly followed by shortstop Tony Rudd’s single. Stephenson would swipe third and Rudd second to give Marion a pair of runners in scoring position and first baseman Ben Vaughn scored Stephenson on a double off the base of the wall in left field, while Rudd would score on a passed ball. Vaughn would score on a single by Tyler Steele to cap the inning for Marion with the Pats behind 5-2. That lead would grow to 8-2 after a three-run Paragould fourth, before Marion got one back in the fifth inning when Rudd reached on a hit-by-pitch, stole second and score on a Vaughn error. Marion got even closer in the sixth when sophomore catcher Peyton McElroy single and moved up on a wild pitch and scored on a Carpenter ground-out to make the score 8-5. Paragould nabbed an insurance run in the top of the seventh for a 9-7 lead, but when Marion put its first three runners on base in the bottom half, it looked as though the Pats were going to come all the way back. Vaughn walked, Jackson Wiggins doubled and Steele chased in Vaughn with a single and Wiggins later on, but the last three Marion hitters were retired to save the game for Paragould. Wiggins also pitched two innings in relief out of the bullpen for Marion. The senior allowed no hits, and struck four batters out, but also walked five batters, one of which came around to score in the seventh. Despite the loss, Kelley was hopeful. “I don’t think this is the best you’ll see us this year,” says the fourth-year Marion head coach. “I’m proud that we never quit. We’re about where I thought we’d be at this point of the season, I guess.” Stephenson (1 for 3, run, stolen base), Rudd (1 for 2, two runs, three stolen bases), Vaughn (1 for 2, two runs scored, RBI) and Steele (2 for 3, 2 RBI, stolen base), all reached base at least twice for Marion. Paragould hurler Tyler Harvey worked three innings, allowing five runs, five hits, posting 2 strikeouts and a walk to nab the win, while Moore was tabbed with the loss for Marion. The Patriots are back in action today when they host Brinkley at 4:30 p.m. The varsity game will be played first, followed by a junior varsity contest.