Central Arkansas Christian will be the third seed from the 7-4A in the Class 4A South Region Baseball Tournament at Star City later this week.
Ryan Stauder’s Mustangs (13-10), who survived a wild consolation game in the district tournament Monday, 9-8 against Nashville, must win one game in the regional in order to qualify for the Class 4A State Tournament next week.
Stauder said Monday night he expected the Mustangs’ first opponent would be Hamburg, second seed from the 8-4A, Friday at 12:30.
"I don’t know a lot about them," Stauder said of the Lions. "I don’t know anybody who has played them. One of our (conference) teams played Star City, and they had a lot of freshmen last year. I know they’re getting older. Outside of that, I don’t know a ton about any of them."
Should the Mustangs win Friday, they would play in Saturday’s semifinals and then again Monday, either in the championship or the consolation game for seeding purposes for the state tournament.
The seeds from the 7-4A are Arkadelphia, Ashdown, CAC and Nashville. Arkadelphia, the defending state champion, avenged a regular-season loss to Ashdown in Monday’s championship, 12-3.
The 8-4A plays a double round-robin and doesn’t have a district tournament. Stauder said he thought the seeds from that conference would be Star City, Hamburg, Crossett and Monticello.
Against Nashville on Monday, the Mustangs overcame a 6-1 deficit to win in the bottom of the seventh.
Helped by a four-run second inning, the Scrappers led by 5-0 after two. CAC pulled within 5-1, but Nashville got that one back in the fourth inning, 6-1. Freshman Braden Quesinberry relieved Jack Partlow in the fourth. The Mustangs pulled within 6-3 in the bottom of the inning with a base hit and an error.
The Scrappers added another run in the fifth, 7-3, but CAC managed to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth on Tanner Weber’s two-run double, Colby Richburg’s RBI single and a wild pitch that scored Weber.
Nashville got a walk to start the top of the sixth; the runner stole second, was bunted to third and scored on a sacrifice fly. The Mustangs stranded Jack Thomas in the bottom of the inning.
In the top of the seventh, leading 8-7, Nashville again put the lead-off batter on base and saw him steal second, but the Mustang defense threw him out later.
In the bottom of the seventh, CAC’s lead-off batter struck out and freshman Cade Huckaby walked. The third batter struck out for the second out, but sophomore Ryan Dillard was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with two outs. With freshman Hunter Corbell up, an errant pitch allowed both runners to advance before Corbell’s single to right-center scored two for the win.
"I was so proud of them," Stauder said. "We’ve struggled all year when we’ve been down early, but they kept fighting and making things happen. Nashville’s best pitcher came in in relief for the last three innings, so we scored our last four runs against him.
"Our young guys are finally starting to get comfortable in their roles. It was fun to watch."
CAC graduated seven seniors last year.
The Mustangs slipped by Arkansas Baptist in their district opener, 4-3, to earn the berth to the regional. CAC went up 4-2 after six; Baptist pulled within one run and had the tying run at third base before Thomas struck out the final batter for the win.
Arkansas Baptist had won the regular-season meeting, 6-5.
"We have a lot of one- and two-run wins," Stauder said. "It’s not easy for a young team to be able to gut out a lot of close wins."
The other end of the spectrum came in Saturday’s semifinals against Arkadelphia. The Badgers won, 12-2.
"We’ve been run-ruled in seven of our 10 losses," Stauder said. "But in that one, you could see us battling a lot better."
Also last week, CAC celebrated Senior Night with a 14-1 win against North Pulaski.