Lady Pats sting Lady ‘Jackets
By Chuck Livingston Sports Editor
Traditionally, starting two sophomore infielders on Opening Day isn’t an ideal scenario, but the Marion Lady Patriots made it work. The Lady Pats opened their 2016 season at home by beating Wynne 5-1, thanks to a complete game from senior Mabry Watson, and solid offensive nights from sophomores Haley Cook and Blakeleigh Garrison. Cook’s first at-bat of the season came in the bottom of the second and it produced a 10-pitch at-bat with two outs that extended the inning enough for Garrison to drive in the season’s first run with a single before Cook came around to score a second run. Cook would cap the scoring in the bottom of the sixth when a triple to right field scored senior catcher Micah Tolleson for a 5-0 advantage. “We had some timely hits tonight, and Blakeleigh and Haley got out there and got some hits with runners on base,” said veteran Marion head coach David Horton. “For a pair of sophomores, that’s big time.” While nobody knew it at the time, those three runs that Marion’s sophomores accounted for would be more than enough for Watson. Marion’s fourth-year starter spun seven innings of good ball inside the circle and allowed but two hits in the first seven innings. Watson would claim the win for Marion after posting a line of seven innings pitched, six hits, seven strikeouts, no walks and a single earned run. “Mabry was great tonight and I’m glad because that’s the longest that she’s pitched for us,” Horton explained. “We’ve kind of held her back a little bit.” Perhaps just as importantly, the Lady Pats defense made no errors behind Watson and even turned flashed the leather on a pair of occasions in a spectacular way. In the top of scoreless second inning, junior second basewoman Hope Phipps ran all the way into foul ground to catch a pop-up to retire Wynne’s lead-off hitter in that frame. Later on, the Marion defense came up with perhaps the biggest play of the day in the seventh inning. Protecting a 5-0 lead, but with the first three Wynne batters of the seventh inning having reached via the hit, Tolleson bolted out from behind the plate to catch a pop-up and fire to second base to team up for a double play that kept the Lady Yellowjackets off of the scoreboard for another batter before the shutout was lost later in the stanza. “First game of the year and we have no errors in the field, that’s pretty awesome,” Horton said of his defense. Marion broke through first when senior Mountain Home native Raygan Shelton singled and scored on Garrison’s base hit in the second inning, a frame in which the Lady Pats led 2-0 at the conclusion of. That lead doubled in the third when senior outfielder Morgan Weaver struck out, but reached on an error by Wynne’s catcher. Following Weaver’s at-bat, Phipps would also reach on an error, and suddenly Marion was set up with two runners on and just one out. Wynne appeared to be out of the inning when Tolleson smashed a grounder to first base, but the Lady Yellowjacket couldn’t handle the shot and Weaver and Phipps plated Marion’s third and fourth runs of the day, only two of which were earned. Marion’s run in the sixth inning started when Tolleson walked on a full count ahead of a McKenzie Shirley sacrifice bunt. Tolleson would score on Cook’s hard-hit triple. The Lady Pats are scheduled to be back in action on Thursday at Valley View and on Saturday at Paragould, weather permitting. Marion will open 7A/6A-East conference play on Tuesday, March 15 when they host Little Rock Central for a pair of varsity games that will begin at 4:30 p.m.