Central Arkansas Christian graduated 11 seniors off a team that reached the semifinals of the Class 4A State Baseball Tournament, so coach Ryan Stauder has a bit of a rebuilding project for 2014.
The Mustangs are already well into it.
They recently finished their extended high school season in which they averaged two doubleheaders a week against such teams as Maumelle, Sylvan Hills, Benton, Little Rock Catholic, Conway St. Joseph, Greenbrier and Vilonia.
“We’re young and a lot of these guys needed to play together and learn our system,” Stauder said. “We’ll return just two starters in Jack Thomas and Jack Partlow, and the rest will be mostly underclassmen with another senior, Jacob Yount.”
Last week, Thomas committed to play baseball for Harding University following his senior season.
“This year I wasn’t planning on 11 seniors,” Stauder said. “I thought we had probably eight or nine, but a couple who hadn’t played before came out. You never know; sometimes guys who haven’t been in the program decide they want to play, so who knows what can happen next year.”
Thomas and Partlow had other summer baseball plans, so Stauder focused on his freshman-laden team. Twelve of the 20 now on the roster for 2014 are freshmen, he said.
“We’re all about development this summer,” he said a few days prior to the end of the summer season. “We’ve won one or two games, and that’s not necessarily a disappointment. We have a lot of freshmen-to-be who are playing against varsity guys, and they’re nervous and not confident, so they’re making errors they won’t make in the spring.
“I have not even looked at the stats this summer. We’ve just been getting a lot of guys as much experience as possible.”
The Mustangs participated in the extended high school program several years ago when Stauder was an assistant under Doug Gunselman but hadn’t done so recently since many of the Mustangs were playing travel ball in the summer.
“This year we brought it back because we were going to be so young,” he said. “At a private school, one of the things we don’t have an advantage on is our kids don’t grow up playing together.
“Absolutely, it’s good for development.”
The tale will be told in the spring.