Central Arkansas Christian’s baseball Mustangs need two wins this week to assure themselves of a third seed for the 7-4A District Tournament.
Ryan Stauder’s team stood 9-8 overall but a more-important 3-2 in conference play opening the week, but Monday’s scheduled league game against Nashville was interrupted by rain in the bottom of the second inning with the Scrappers leading, 1-0. Stauder said Monday night the game would be continued Tuesday if the field at Burns Park was playable. If not, they’ll try to squeeze it in sometime before Friday’s scheduled conference finale at Ashdown.
Ashdown is the league leader at 6-0 following the Panthers’ 1-0 win over Arkadelphia, the defending state champion and conference favorite. The Badgers are 5-1. CAC opened the week in third at 3-2.
“We could be as low as fifth or as high as third,” Stauder said Monday. “If we beat Nashville, that will lock up third or fourth and give us a first-round bye in the district tournament (to the semifinals), so we’ll just have to win one in district to get to the regional.
“That’s big because with Jack (Thomas) on the mound, we can beat anybody.”
With Arkadelphia and Ashdown senior-laden, he said he’d hoped to get his young Mustangs to third this year.
CAC would also secure third if Arkansas Baptist loses to Bauxite or Pulaski Robinson this week. Should the Mustangs lose both this week, they would drop to fifth and have to win two to reach the regional.
The district tournament is set for May 1-5 in Arkadelphia. The top four teams from that tournament will advance to the Class 4A South Regional, with the top four from there moving on to the Class 4A State Tournament.
Last week CAC beat Malvern, 9-7, and Robinson, 10-4, for a pair of conference wins.
Against Malvern, the Mustangs led comfortably by 7-1 and, later, 9-3.
“Our normal guys were having good games, getting on base, and we were capitalizing on a lot of their mistakes,” Stauder said. “That’s a big deal for us. When we have a high contact rate, we can take advantage of our speed on the bases. They had four errors against us, but we were putting pressure on them in a lot of ways.”
In the bottom of the sixth, with his team up 9-3, Thomas got a little tired, Stauder said, and “the strike zone got smaller, it seemed like.”
The Leopards pulled within 9-6 after a walk, a hit batsman, an error, a base hit followed by another error and a double with the bases loaded. With one out and the bases still loaded, Stauder pulled Thomas for freshman Braden Quesinberry, who struck out the first batter he faced on a 3-2 pitch before walking in a run on another 3-2 pitch to make it 9-7.
“Then he gets a fly-out to stop the rally,” Stauder said. “In the seventh, he got two to fly out and then struck out the last one. It was big for him as a freshman to come in and do that. I was proud of him.”
The coach said he didn’t know if Robinson threw its best pitcher, but he described the win as “a total team effort.”
“They booted it around a bit,” he said of the Senators. “But Cade Huckaby and Tanner Weber (a pair of freshmen) did a good job of getting hits. We stole six or seven bases; (Robinson) made quite a few errors and Jack Partlow had a perfect going into the fourth inning and then a no-hitter into the fifth.”
CAC led by 10-0 headed into the bottom of the fifth and needed only to retire the side to end the game early, but a walk followed by a single to center and an error on the solid line drive brought the score to 10-1. Robinson scored three more in the sixth.
“We’d played pretty good defense,” Stauder said. “We’re getting better every time we play, and I brought Braden back in to close. He got us out of the jam again. He got the last out of the (sixth) inning and then the next three in the seventh to close us out.”
The Mustangs are scheduled to play host to North Pulaski on Monday for a non-conference game to close out the regular season.