Central Arkansas Christian’s baseball Mustangs will finish the regular season Thursday at Stuttgart in a preview of next week’s 2-4A District Tournament.


Hayden Cruce’s team was 13-7 overall and 10-2 in combined conference play heading into Tuesday’s final combined conference doubleheader with Episcopal Collegiate (5-15).


Stuttgart opened the week 12-8.


“They struggled a little bit early but really came on in their conference,” Cruce said of the Ricebirds. “They’ll be a good test for us, a good gauge for where we stand going into the district tournament.”


Coaches will meet Thursday morning to seed teams for the district tournament next week at Southside Batesville. Seeds 1 through 7 must win one game to advance to the Class 4A East Regional at Trumann May 4-6. Seeds 8 and 9 will face each other in the district tournament with the winner to advance to meet the top seed in its opening game.


Last week, the Mustangs split their combined conference showdown with Lonoke, losing the first game, 2-1; and winning the second, 6-2.


“I think they’re one of the top teams in our district,” Cruce said of the Jackrabbits, who were 12-10 overall and 8-2 in combined conference play entering this week. “We knew going into that (doubleheader) with them having one loss in conference, that was going to be huge.


“In the first game, we really struggled at the plate against their top guy (Kade Stuart). We couldn’t get much going offensively. Braden (Quesinberry) pitched a great game for us. They scored one run on an error, and they just beat us. Defensively, we played pretty good.”


He said the Mustangs hit the ball much better in the second game.


“We got a great effort from freshman Rhett James,” Cruce said. “He went 6 1-3 innings and only gave up two runs. Hunter Corbell finished for us. We hit much better throughout the lineup.


“I was really proud of the way the kids responded after the first game. It would’ve been easy for us to be frustrated and not play well in the second game, but they responded really well.”


Later in the week, the Mustangs fell to Class 5A power Sylvan Hills, 19-0.


“All I will say about that one is we got out-pitched, out-hit and out-coached,” Cruce said. “They beat us. They are very, very talented. The biggest thing about a loss like that is we can’t let that affect us down the road. We have to put it behind us and go on.”


The Mustangs have the tiebreaker with Lonoke thanks to the four-run victory in the second game. That should bode well for their district seed.


“With our (combined conference) as tough as it is and the non-conference schedule we’ve played, we really feel like we’ve set ourselves up to be in good position to be a top seed. Having the tiebreaker over Lonoke helps us. Stuttgart is at the top of their (combined conference), and Heber Springs will finish 1 or 2 in theirs.”