Central Arkansas Christian won the 7-4A District Tournament over Arkadelphia on Monday at Ashdown and will take the league’s top seed into the Class 4A South Regional on Friday — also at Ashdown.
"If we hit the ball like that at Ashdown every time, we’ll drive down here every night," a jubilant Mustang coach Ryan Stauder said afterward.
CAC won two district tournament games at Ashdown by a combined 25-5.
Stauder had said heading into the tournament he thought the Mustang bats were about to break out.
He was right.
"They finally broke out at the right time," he said Monday. "Our guys are peaking at the right time and having some fun doing it. They’re coming together as a team."
CAC (11-11) will face Crossett, the fourth seed from the 8-4A, in the regional opener at noon Friday. A win there would guarantee the Mustangs a berth in the Class 4A State Tournament next week.
The regional will continue Saturday and Monday. Star City, Hamburg and Monticello round out the field from the 8-4A; Arkadelphia, Ashdown and Malvern will join CAC as representatives of the 7-4A.
"We’re really coming together at the right time," CAC junior Jack Thomas said. "We couldn’t have picked a better time to get hot. I am confident that we’ll keep it rolling into this weekend and throughout the rest of the post-season."
Stauder said Arkadelphia was the best Class 4A team the Mustangs had faced this year, but it only took six innings to secure the 12-2 win. CAC broke open a scoreless game with a three-run third and added two in the fourth and three in the fifth to build an 8-0 lead.
"We jumped on them pretty early and kept putting pressure on them," Stauder said. "They scored two in the top of the sixth, and we scored four in the bottom to end it."
Landon Hearnes got the complete-game win, allowing six hits, two runs and two walks and striking out one. Offensively, he went 2-for-3, including the game-ending double that drove in three runs to enforce the run rule. Joey Pinney and Chase Dowell each went 2-for-4; Dowell and Thomas each added two RBIs.
"We all hit, and we played a lot of good defense behind Landon," Stauder said.
Ashdown in the semifinals was a similar result as the Mustangs finished things in five innings, 13-3. Joey Pinney went all five innings, allowing four hits, no earned runs and four walks while striking out 11.
"Ashdown had already played two games in the district tournament, and when they came in they didn’t have a lot of pitching left," Stauder said. "We took advantage of it."
Pinney went 2-for-2 with two doubles and six RBIs. Thomas was 2-for-2 with two RBIs, three runs scored, one HBP and a walk. Ryan Faulkner went 1-for-2 with a double, two RBIs; a run scored and a walk. Travis Byrne was 1-for-3 with a double, two RBIs, a run scored and a walk. Jack Partlow, the lead-off batter, went 0-for-0 with four walks and scored three runs.