Toppers’ unbeaten streak extended against Paragould
Sports Editor PARAGOULD — Riding a seven-game unbeaten streak, last night the Marion Toppers did something that they hadn’t done all year.
They played a true road game for the first time in 2016.
Despite dusty conditions at Paragould’s H. Francis Bland Field, and gametime temperatures in the mid-90’s, the Toppers swept a doubleheader against Paragould American Legion, tackling a 13-2 rule-rule-shortened sixinning decision in the opener before slipping past the hosts 5-1 in the fiveinning nightcap.
The story of the opener was the suddenly-explosive offense of the Toppers (11-2-1 overall). Marion struggled to score runs over its first three weeks of the season, but continued a good run that saw them score 11 and 12 times in a doubleheader sweep of Memphis Homeschool on Monday night.
For the third straight game, Marion tallied its most runs of the season by scoring those 13 runs against Paragould.
“We swung the bats as well as we have all year,” said Marion Toppers head coach Junior Weaver after the game. “They had a pitching change right before the game. I guess their projected starter had a sore arm, so they ran a kid out there that was 78 or 79 and we made a lot of solid contact. Our hitters did a good job and were really locked in.”
Those runs went to support right-hander Kris Peet who picked up his third win of the summer, and second against Paragould in just his second start.
Peet pitched 6 innings while allowing just five hits, two runs (one earned) and struck six hitters out all while not walking one batter.
“Peet was unbelievable with his first-pitch strikes and getting ahead of their hitters,” Weaver said of his starter. “Six innings on 81 pitches, that’s phenomenal.
His cutter was really working tonight and the ball was coming out of his hand really good too.”
Marion scored in every atbat that they had except for the third inning, and it started with a two-out rally in the first.
West Memphis native Cam Smith (3-5, 2 runs, 2 RBI) singled ahead of Blake Daniels reaching on an error and those two came around on a Nick Alsbrook (2-4, 2 RBI, run) double to open the scoring.
The Toppers piled on in the second when Bryce Logan reached on a fielder’s choice just before leadoff man Gavin Stone singled and that pair came in on a Kollin Stone double for a 4-0 lead. Kollin Stone ran home on a Cam Smith single.
Marion was blanked in the third inning, but effectively put the game out of reach in the fourth, scoring three more times, the big blows coming on an RBI double from Cam Smith and a Matt Fraser (2-3, 2 runs, RBI) two-base hit.
A four-run sixth inning gave the Toppers a 13-2 lead and when Peet held Paragould off the scoreboard in the bottom half of the inning, the run rule was enacted, handing Marion win No. 10.
“Offensively we were good. Defensively we were good. We were aggressive on the base paths. I felt like every phase of the game we were really good,” Weaver added.
The Toppers got back after it in the second game, scoring first and breaking open a late 2-1 game and taking the 5-1 decision.
Alsbrook opened the scoring when he scored on a wild pitch in the first inning and Cam Smith did the same in the third for a 2-0 lead.
Gavin Stone worked the game’s first two innings, allowing just two hits before handing off to Larkey Dotson to work the last three innings.
The Toppers twosome kept Paragould off of the scoreboard until the bottom of the fourth when Lance Ditto drove in John Witherspoon with a fielder’s choice to trim the lead in half.
In the top of the fifth, with the game hanging in the balance, a Preston Nichols double to left scored Alsbrook to go up 3-1 and a Bryce Logan double scored Frasure and Nichols for the 5-1 lead that would double as the final.
“If we had an injury or something like that, I feel like we could plug those guys in and contribute,” Weaver explained. “It was a young lineup in that second game, but they still came through with some big hits and some big plays defensively and it’s always good to come home with a sweep.”
The Toppers play the Marion Patriots tonight beginning at 5:30 p.m. at John Robbins Field. The doubleheader will feature a pair of five-inning contests.
By Chuck Livingston