OZARK – Wallace State right-hander Bret Marks didn't feel like he had his best stuff on the mound Monday afternoon in the Lions' opening game of the Alabama Community College Conference/Region 22 tournament at Eagle Stadium in Ozark.
Chattahoochee Valley batters probably disagreed.
Marks tossed a gem. He went 8 1/3 dominant innings, striking out nine, walking one and scattering three hits as top-seeded Wallace State edged CVCC 2-1 and advanced in the winner's bracket. The Lions (39-15) are one of three top seeds in the tournament and play Faulkner State, the Southern Division's top seed, at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
"I've definitely felt better this year on the mound than I did today, but grinded it out. Andrew Dennis did an unbelievable job behind the plate and my defense did its job. It was a nail-biter," Marks said. "I didn't know for sure I was going to get the start until Sunday and was excited. Once you get into the postseason, you want to perform as well as you can."
Marks improved to 10-4 on the season, throwing 130 pitches before being relieved by Cade Medley with one out in the ninth. Medley stranded a runner in scoring position to notch his first save of the season, getting the first hitter to strikeout and inducing a groundball to end the game.
"The bottom line was Bret Marks pitched his tail off today (Monday). He pitched like he has been all year and got past a hard team to beat. We had plenty of opportunities offensively to make life easier for us, but for whatever reason couldn't get any more runs across," said Wallace State coach Randy Putman. "You've got to tip our hat to our pitching and defense. That was the difference."
Wallace State scored its pair of runs in the fourth on a two-out, two-run double by Dennis. His sinking line drive eluded the CVCC left fielder and allowed Nathan Vincent and Jud Sherrill to score, both whom reached on walks.
CVCC chipped into the deficit in the top of the sixth for the final run of the game.
Dennis finished 2-for-4, Cade Medley and Grant Bennett each had two hits, Sherrill had a single and two walks and Conner McCain added a single.
Clint Spratlin was the tough luck loser for the Pirates, going six innings and allowing both runs.
The tournament championship is scheduled for Friday at 1 p.m.