Another shot at state: Conference champ Cats will have hands full


Watson Chapel (18-5, 12-2 in 5A South) finished the regular season as the conference champion after Magnolia defeated White Hall on Tuesday. The Wildcats will face Wynne today at 5 p.m. at Nettleton High School in Jonesboro.

“They are very solid,” Chapel head coach Chad Cope said. “They are a senior-laden team and that always scares me.

“They have pretty good pitching, they swing the bat well and they are well coached. It is going to be a tough draw for us.”

Chapel is made up mostly of underclassmen, relaying on the pitching efforts of junior Josh Dardenne and sophomore left-hander Justin Pierce.

Dardenne is expected to start today. He finished the regular season with a 7-2 record and an ERA of 2.23.

“We aren’t going to change what we do,” Cope said. “We have just been working on the same stuff that we have since August. We just want to make sure that our fundamentals are ready.”

Chapel made it to the 5A state championship game last season, losing to White Hall in extra innings.

Zebras on long state victory drought

Pine Bluff (8-13, 4-10 in 7A/6A South) is trying to win its first playoff game in at least eight years when it faces Russellville today at 2:30 p.m. at Bernard Holland Park in Benton.

“We have been working on our fundamentals,” Pine Bluff head coach Ryan Stinson said. “Our hitting, our defense and just trying to stay focused.”

Pine Bluff will put its upperclassmen, including senior Walter Ashley, toward the top of the lineup to “try to get something going.”

“Those that have been in the battles,” Stinson said. “See what we can do.”

Stinson said he does not know who he will start on the mound today.

More than likely, it will be Aaron McDonald or J’Marlos Johnson. McDonald is 2-5 on the year with 11 appearances and an ERA of 5.44.

Johnson is 2-4 on the season in 11 appearances and an ERA of 10.04. Ashley leads Pine Bluff with a .350 batting average while Braylen Jones is batting .317 with seven RBIs.

Redbugs on dream season

Thanks to a group of ninth-graders, Fordyce (23-2, 8-0 in the 8-3A) is having one of its best seasons in about 13 years.

After winning the 3A Region 4 tournament earlier this week, Fordyce will face Elkins today at 5 p.m. at Harding Academy in the state tournament — a feat Fordyce hasn’t accomplished since 1999.

“We have just been hitting a lot and going over fundamentals,” Fordyce head coach Tim Rodgers said. “Especially baserunning errors and situations we messed up in the regionals.”

Fordyce had two runners get thrown out on tag-outs and therefore Fordyce has been sharpening that fundamental for most of the week.

Ross Rodgers, one of the many ninth graders Fordyce has, is expected to start today. He is 7-0 on the year and has an ERA of 0.92.

Cole Johnson led Fordyce in the regional tournament, finishing with a .500 average, three home runs and seven RBIs.

Brayden Chambers was 5 for 9 during the regional tournament, including a home run and five RBIs. Daniel Harris was 5 for 7.

Also in 3A, McGehee will face No. 1 seed Cedarville today at noon at Harding Academy.

Ricebirds await Bulldogs-Hillbillies survivor

Stuttgart defeated Brookland 6-4 on Tuesday to the win the 4A East Region tournament at Heber Springs High School. The tournament win earned Stuttgart a bye in the state tournament.

The Ricebirds will face the winner of Star City/Ozark on Friday at 2:30 p.m. at Harrison High School.

In the regional championship game, Jon Curtis finished 4 for 5 with a run scored and an RBI. Jay McGee was 2 for 3 with two RBIs.

Jon Curtis was the winning pitcher after pitching 5 1/3 innings of relief. He allowed just one run (earned) on four hits with four strikeouts and two walks.

Bulldogs find way back to state

For the first time in 10 years, the Star City Bulldogs (17-9, 12-2 in 8-4A) have made the state tournament. Star City will face Ozark today at 2:30 p.m. at Harrison High School.

“I am proud of the kids,” Star City head coach Scott Johnson said. “We only have two seniors on the team, and they have done a great job of leading the younger guys along the way.”

Zack House, one of the seniors, is expected to start today. He has a 10-1 record and has an ERA of 2.70.

Jackson Haynes, the other senior, plays first base and has a batting average of .324.

“The biggest thing I feel like they have done is held everything together,” Johnson said. “They have dedicated themselves to on and off the field. They are good role models and good examples.”

This is only the fourth time Star City has made the state tournament in school history. The Bulldogs made it in 1989, 1990 and in 2003.

Yellowjackets draw Patriots

Sheridan lost to Hot Springs Lakeside 5-4 in nine innings on Tuesday in its final regular-season game.

Lathan Wylie finished the game 4 for 5 and Ryan Taylor was 2 for 4 with an RBI. Taylor was the losing pitcher. He went two innings and allowed one run (earned) on no hits with three walks.

Sheridan will face Little Rock Parkview today at 2:30 p.m. at Benton High School in the first round of the 6A state tournament.