With 11 seniors, many of them with significant experience, on Central Arkansas Christian’s roster of 21, the Mustangs look to improve on last year’s 15-15 baseball mark.
Ryan Stauder’s team finished third in the 5A-Southwest last year and ended the season with a 6-2 first-round loss to Harrison in the Class 5A State Tournament.
For 2013, the Mustangs drop to the 7-4A against Arkadelphia, Arkansas Baptist, Ashdown, Bauxite, Malvern, Nashville and Pulaski Robinson. With the drop in classification, they’ll have to survive district and regional tournaments to reach the Class 4A State Tournament.
Stauder said the drop in classification would have some effect on the season.
"I think with (Class) 4A, there are a few less teams that are contenders," he said. "In (Class) 5A, any team could beat any team in the state tournament. Last year a 3 seed from a conference won it all."
Arkadelphia, which finished second in the 5A-Southwest last year, moved with the Mustangs to the 7-4A.
"A lot of teams in this conference now are pretty good baseball schools," Stauder said. "It will be a competitive conference."
Mustang seniors include Joey Pinney, Chase Dowell, Travis Byrne, Landon Hearnes, Aidan Overgaard, Turner McDaniel, Ryan Faulkner, Zak Kellerman, Dylan Huckaby, BJ Bull and Michael Foster. Juniors Jack Thomas and Jack Partlow are also expected to play major roles this spring.
The Mustangs opened the week 2-5. They went 0-3 in the Benton Tournament (losing to Sheridan, 3-2 in eight innings; Little Rock Catholic, 6-1; and Russellville, 14-4); beat Jacksonville in eight innings, 8-7; lost to North Little Rock, 13-10; beat Pulaski Academy, 5-2; and lost at Benton, 7-2.
"Our two wins are against (Class) 5A teams," Stauder said. "We’ve played some of the bigger schools tough for a while. Our pitching was good enough to win against North Little Rock, but we’ve had some issues on defense. We’ve given up a lot of unearned runs. The guys have been playing a little tight in the beginning. Some guys have put a lot of pressure on themselves, but you can’t make those kinds of mistakes and expect to beat teams like that.
"We’ve given the other teams too many runs, and those are the type that make you pay."
CAC played host to Greenbrier on Tuesday. Pulaski Robinson will visit on Thursday and Abundant Life on Friday before the Mustangs take Spring Break off.
"We still believe we’re going to have a good year and that our guys are going to be fine," Stauder said.