Central Arkansas Christian’s baseball team took its turn at Arkadelphia, the defending Class 4A state champion, last week and fell, 15-2.
But, as coach Ryan Stauder said, there’s no shame in losing to the Badgers. The rest of the conference, he said, would be playing for second this year.
"Honestly, Arkadelphia’s better than (Class 7A) North Little Rock," he said. "They’re up there with anybody we’ve played — (Little Rock) Catholic, Sylvan Hills — I’d take Arkadelphia against any of them. They’re rolling right now. They returned almost everybody from their state championship team. Basically, they’re the same team, only older."
The young Mustangs got down early. They didn’t play great defense in trailing by 3-0, Stauder said.
"Our youth hurt us," he said. "We looked a little intimidated after that. You could see it in their body language."
The Mustangs had a bit more life about them Saturday in a non-conference game with North Little Rock that they lost, 12-2.
"We still fought the whole game," Stauder said of that one. "We had guys playing different positions — Jack Thomas was playing first after pitching Friday — but they battled a lot better. It’s just a consistency thing with a lot of our experienced guys. They’ve learned how to compete and bounce back and have short memories.
"We hope by the end of the year we’re not an easy out in the district tournament or, we hope, the regional."
He said the Mustangs ran out of pitching against North Little Rock, their third game in as many days. CAC went up 1-0 and 2-1 before the Charging Wildcats broke open the game.
"We made a few mistakes, and when you do that, good teams tend to make you pay," Stauder said. "We got thrown out at the plate a couple of times early. We could’ve gone up more, but the throws were perfect both times."
The Mustangs had little to lose against their larger opponent.
"We love to push the envelope," Stauider said. "But that broke some momentum early."
In between those two games, the Mustangs beat Bauxite, 4-0, to improve to 1-2 in conference play. Stauder said his team had only a handful of hits but did a good job running the bases.
"We were stealing bases and we found ways to score runs," he said.
Thomas’ performance at the plate was stellar. He struck out 18 and gave up three hits.
"I see us improving," Stauder said. "I hope we can keep on until we can do some damage in the district tournament, the regional and maybe even the state. Our seniors are doing a great job leading. We just don’t have enough of them."
This week the Mustangs were scheduled for conference games at Malvern on Monday, at Pulaski Robinson on Thursday and at home against Nashville on Monday, April 21. They were to face non-conference opponents Abundant Life at home Tuesday and at Little Rock Christian on Tuesday, April 22.