By Adam Harnish Clinging to a one run lead in the eighth, with the bases loaded and the tying run on third base, Braves pitcher Alex Markopoulos knew he was in a tough spot. But, he still had a plan. “I was just looking to pound the zone,” Markopoulos recalled. “In my head, just pound the zone, and make them beat me with the bat.”
Sure enough, Markopoulos induced an inning ending groundout to escape the jam. The Montezuma Braves (4-3) went on to win a gritty, intense matchup 5-4 against the Bridgewater Reds (2-5), anchored by a crucial 3.2 innings of relief from their young right hander.
“[Markopoulos] pitches with confidence,” Montezuma coach Chris Rush said after the game. “He’s one of those guys that when he takes the mound, if the game is close, he’s going to keep you right there where you need to be.”
Bridgewater started off the game with a two run double courtesy of Kyle Weston, but the Braves quickly responded with three runs of their own in the bottom of the frame. The Braves tacked on two more runs in the middle innings, and their relief pitchers, Troy Fink and Keegan Oliver, held down the fort until the middle of the sixth inning. That’s when Coach Rush went to his closer.
“The last game [Markopoulos] pitched, we were really impressed with what we saw. So, we knew going into this game that he was going to be our closer guy tonight,” Rush explained.
Things got dicey for the Braves in the top of the eighth, when some quality Reds at-bats and a few close calls resulted in a run getting walked in, making the score 5-4. With their back against the wall, bases loaded and two outs, the Braves stuck with Markopoulos on the mound, and he was able to get out of the jam. He went on to pitch a one-two-three ninth inning to put the game in the books.
OTHER STANDOUT PERFORMANCES: Reds CF Grey Sherfey went 2 for 2 with three walks, two runs and one RBI, improving his batting average to .444 on the year...Reds starting pitcher Derek Shifflett threw all eight innings for Bridgewater, only allowing three earned runs on seven hits and eight strikeouts....oh, and by the way, Markopoulos had himself a day at the plate as well: a pair of hits, with an RBI and a run scored.
The Braves travel to Grottoes to take on the Cardinals (1-6) on Friday night. The Reds get a bit of a breather before their next matchup on Sunday at home against the Stuarts Draft Diamondbacks (2-3).