Central Arkansas Christian’s baseball Mustangs headed into spring break after escaping Harding Academy on Friday, 5-4.
Ryan Stauder’s team (4-4) is taking a few days off before a busy weekend at a tournament in Mayflower and the start of the 7-4A conference race Monday at Arkansas Baptist.
Baptist was the only conference team to beat the Mustangs last year until the post-season.
“I think they were a little young, so they’ll bring most of their guys back, including most of their pitching,” Stauder said of the Eagles. “They should be tough and improved. We will have to do the little things.”
Early last week, the Mustangs suffered through a rocky patch, losing a pair of games to Class 5A Greenbrier and Sylvan Hills by a combined 25-0. They managed just one hit between the two.
“They’re both good teams, and they have more pitching depth,” Stauder said. “That really showed. We didn’t play very well, and I think our kids will tell you that. We’re younger and we have a smaller margin of error. We get down a little, and that snowballs on us because we haven’t been through the fires like our past teams.”
Against Harding Academy, the Mustangs endured a back-and-forth contest early before using “small ball” in a three-run inning, combined with some Wildcat errors, to go up 4-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth.
“We found a way to score another run with two outs,” Stauder said. “Jack Partlow hit what ended up being the game-winning RBI after we gave up two runs in the top of the seventh.”
In fact, the Wildcats left two runners on base before their half of the inning ended.
“It was an intense game but a good one,” Stauder said. “Coach (Shane) Fullerton and I are good friends, and I respect the job he’s done. They’re a little young like we are, but they won state in (Class) 3A last year. They graduated quite a bit, but they’re going to be tough again in 3A.
“Our kids battled back, and I was proud of them. Any time you lose two run-rule games before a tough game like that, it’s hard, but they understood the importance of getting that win.”
The Mustangs’ other senior Jack, Jack Thomas, got the complete-game win, avenging a struggling effort against the Wildcats last year.
CAC is scheduled to face Bauxite and Harding Academy at Mayflower on Friday and Maumelle on Saturday to complete pool play. The Mustangs will travel to Arkansas Baptist on Monday, March 31 and play host to Carlisle in a non-conference game on Tuesday, April 1.
“I gave them off anything mandatory until Friday,” Stauder said. “We’ll try to give them a break and then sharpen up over the weekend before we get to Arkansas Baptist.”