Tuesday, April 19, 2011

SPORTS >> Glaude tidings at Beebe

Leader sportswriter

It’s hard for Griffin Glaude’s reputation not to precede him at this point.

Such was the case Friday when Beebe’s senior ace and last year’s 5A state championship Most Valuable Player was sought out for photos and an interview before the Badgers’ non-conference home game against Cabot.

Nearby, Cabot coach Jay Fitch and Beebe coach Mark Crafton stood outside the visitors’ dugout chatting while their teams warmed up.

“The first question you need to ask him is why the heck he didn’t move to Cabot, we could have used him,” Fitch said as Glaude walked by.

“Take it easy on us out there today, kid,” Fitch said to Glaude.

No such luck, coach.

Though Glaude, a senior who recently signed to play for the University of Central Arkansas, did not pitch during the Badgers’ 11-6 comeback victory, he was instrumental offensively as he hit the go-ahead, three-run home run over the center-field wall in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Throw in a solid defensive effort at shortstop and it’s clear why Glaude’s name has reached neighboring towns, even those not within the Badgers’ conference.

Things have been a little different for Glaude and the Badgers (15-3, 6-0) after moving from their former home in the 5A-Southeast Conference into the 5A-East this season, but the results have been promising nonetheless.

That’s thanks in large part to Glaude, who carries an 0.94 ERA and .466 batting average.

“He’s going to be missed,” Crafton said of Glaude, his three-year starter. “Not only is he a good player, he’s also a good kid. He’s one of those kids who leads by his actions on the field.”

The Badgers went into the 5A state tournament last year as a No. 2 seed after losing two conference games to the Monticello Billies, who happened to wind up as their opponents for the championship game at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

Glaude got the start and captured the state’s attention by pitching five shutout innings and hitting the game-winning RBI as the Badgers earned their first baseball state championship.

“Every game, you go out, and you have a target on your back,” Glaude said of the defending state champion status. “We had real good support from the community. A lot of people helped raise money to buy the rings. All the other athletic teams were proud of us.”

Glaude, who throws right and bats left, said there is little difference between Beebe’s two conferences the past two seasons, though he said there may be slightly more depth in the 5A-East, which features Batesville, Wynne, Green Co. Tech and Forrest City.

If any doubt persisted as to whether or not Glaude’s MVP performance in Fayetteville was a fluke, he has extinguished it this season with a 5-0 start and his miserly ERA.

“Everyone ups their game when he’s on the mound,” Crafton said. “But they also try to ride him sometimes. We get a couple of runs, and everyone kind of levels out. It’s like, ‘Okay, we got Griff two runs — we’re all right.’

“We don’t have that put-it-away mentality, but the kids do play with a better confidence level when he’s out there.”

There was plenty of interest in Glaude at the collegiate level. He attracted Arkansas State, the University of Louisiana Monroe and UALR and got a walk-on invitation from the University of Arkansas.

But Glaude chose UCA under first-year head coach Allen Gum, who coached at Southern Arkansas University the previous five years and had four players in last year’s Major League draft.

That included No. 16 overall draft pick Hayden Simpson, a right-hander from Magnolia.

Two other Muleriders also went to the professional ranks as free agents for a total of six from Gum’s team.

“Coach Gum, I really liked him,” Glaude said. “I just think that’s the best place for me. I figured it was the best place for me to go and get drafted.”

Many say Beebe’s chances of making it back to Baum are good, but for Glaude, the pressure remains.

“We have confidence,” he said.

“But yeah, there’s always pressure when you’re out there, and you’re down a couple of runs early.”