North Little Rock’s spring break trip to Florida last week proved to be a turning point for the Charging Wildcat baseball team.
The Wildcats traveled to Florida to play four teams in four days. With one of those contests rained out, they came back from the trip with a 2-1 record. Add Tuesday’s doubleheader victories over conference foe West Memphis, North Little Rock (3-1 6A/7A-East) is now 7-5 overall. Before the Florida trip, the Wildcats owned a 3-4 mark.
“We played well in Florida, and the kids came together,” North Little Rock Coach Randy Sandefur said. “Before we had been up and down, and we played three good teams and played solid baseball.”
Sandefur contributes the inconsistency to replacing five seniors from last year’s conference championship team including University of Arkansas signee Alex Gosser. He said specifically it took some time to replace the leadership from last year’s guys. In Florida, the Wildcats connected and defeated Pace, 3-1, and Navarre, 5-4.They lost in eight innings to Milton, 8-7.
“I think we turned the corner and got some confidence,” Sandefur said. “When 27 guys are on the road, they bond and take care of each other.”
Tuesday night, North Little Rock edged West Memphis in the first game of a doubleheader, 2-1. The Wildcats then won the second contest, 4-1. Sandefur said the first matchup was a pitcher’s duel with senior Preston Oberling pitching five innings and senior Jake Sandefur throwing the remaining two.
“I don’t know if we would have won two to three weeks ago,” Randy said. “We’ve really turned into a good defensive team and are making plays. We are having mental lapses but now the mental lapses are farther apart, and we are having some consistency.”
Sandefur pointed out the play of senior Chandler Thompson and said he is hitting well. He also said junior Danny Mitchell is playing well in centerfield, and he also touted the performance of freshmen twins Zac and Chase Freeman.
“We have a bunch of role guys in the lineup,” Sandefur said. “They are buying into it with 15-16 guys playing.”
North Little Rock hosts Bentonville on Friday and then travels Tuesday to Jonesboro for a conference doubleheader.