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Marion’s Sparks Signs With Williams

6/1/2011

by Ryan Riordan
Marion Evening Times

Marion head baseball coach Mac Hurley said he came close to cutting Brandon Sparks during Sparks’ freshman year in 2008. But Hurley was convinced by assistant coach Buster Benton to keep Sparks on as a pitcher.

From there, Sparks went on to be the team’s best pitcher by the end of his sophomore season, an all-state selection his junior year and won the team’s first state tournament game in four years. Now, Sparks has signed to play baseball at Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge.

"I don’t know what to say; I’m just speechless," Sparks said. "I’m really excited, though."

Sparks’ signing came just two days after his last game in a Patriots’ uniform, a loss to Jacksonville in the 6A state semifinals. It was a rare blemish for the senior, who was 7-3 this season with three saves after going 8-5 with four saves and a 2.33 ERA to earn 6A All-State honors.

"He’s grown leaps and bounds," Hurley said. "His sophomore year he was steady, and then his junior year he was pretty dominant. ... This year he finished like we thought he would. I’m very proud of him."

One of Sparks’ best performances this season was in the Patriots’ 10-0 win over Pine Bluff Friday in the first round of the 6A State Baseball Tournament at Marion. Sparks pitched all five innings of the game that was shortened due to the mercy rule, giving up just two hits as Marion advanced to the quarterfinals after three straight seasons of losing in the first round of the state tournament.

On hand to see Sparks’ performance was Williams coach Frank Lee, who had to drive a long distance to be in attendance.

"I drove back from Columbia, South Carolina, to be here Friday to see him play and I was not disappointed," Lee said. "He flat got after it against Pine Bluff. I was very impressed."

What most impresses Lee about Sparks is the pitcher’s competitiveness on the rubber. "He’s a bulldog on the mound," Lee said. "He gets after it and just wants to win and he’s going to put his team in position to do so."

Lee said Sparks, who had two sisters go to school at Williams, will have a chance to step in and play a role for the Eagles’ right away, likely as a mid-week pitcher. But Lee did say he wouldn’t be surprised if Sparks got more time in conference play as the season went along.

For Sparks, no matter what his role is with Williams, the chance to continue his baseball career is an exciting opportunity.

"When I was younger I wanted to go to the MLB, but I realize that it’s probably not going to be possible," Sparks said. "But I love baseball with all my heart and I can’t wait to play another four years of it."

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