Patrick Smith’s debut as head coach of the Central Arkansas Christian baseball program was a successful one as the Mustangs hammered Jacksonville last week, 12-2.
“Their coach told me they were a little young this year, and we came out and kind of jumped on them early,” said Smith, a former CAC assistant under Ryan Stauder for two years who spent the last five at Batesville. “I think their pitcher may have had a slight injury, so they had to go to their bullpen pretty early, and we were able to add a few runs here and there every inning.”
The Mustangs broke open a scoreless game with two runs in the bottom of the second and made it 4-0 after three innings. After the Titans pulled within 4-1 in the top of the fourth, CAC settled things with a four-run fourth, 8-1, and added four more in the bottom of the sixth.
Sophomore third baseman/pitcher Rhett James led the Mustang offense, going 2-for-4 with four RBIs. Sophomore Eli Garrison went 1-for-3 with two RBIs.
CAC, which was to play at Bauxite on Tuesday, is scheduled to play Class 7A North Little Rock at Burns Park on Wednesday and travel to Class 5A Batesville on Thursday. The schedule was tweaked after the Lady Mustangs qualified for the Class 4A state basketball championship, set for Friday at 7:45 p.m. in Hot Springs.
“We’re excited to see North Little Rock,” Smith said. “We share a field with them, and we have a pretty good working relationship with their coach (Brock Moore). It’s an opportunity for us to face some quality competition. We challenge ourselves and we want to be the best, so we want to see some of the best the state has to offer, and North Little Rock has been that, year-in and year-out.”
Batesville is Smith’s hometown. He was an assistant football coach for the Pioneers.
“I think they’re supposed to be improved,” he said. “They’ve got some kids who are fairly athletic. It should be fun to go back.”
At Mustang Mountain, Smith replaces Hayden Cruce, who takes over as Mustang athletic director after Doug Killgore resigned his administrative position. Cruce, a former Mustang athlete, led his alma mater to 39 wins in his two years with baseball, including a Class 4A state semifinal finish in 2016 and the quarterfinals in 2017. CAC closed 22-8 last season.
Smith said James should end up being the Mustangs’ ace after he recovers from a fractured finger in another week. Garrison will play in the outfield, at third, pitch some and be the back-up at shortstop.
“Our weaknesses are we don’t have a ton of returning starters,” Smith said. “We graduated a lot, and that can always present itself at any point in the season. But our strength is we’re deep. We’ve got a lot of kids who have had some experience — they’ve filled in, pitched here and there, pinch hit.
“We’ve got some good ball players. I think another strength is we have a lot of pitching. Against Jacksonville, I used a new pitcher each inning, and they all did a nice job.”