SHERIDAN — To some, today’s 6A state baseball championship — let alone the semifinals — is an indicator of how strong the 6A-South Conference has been this year.
Conference champion Sheridan beat third-place Benton 3-2 last Saturday to reach today’s final in Fayetteville. Today, runner-up El Dorado, which beat Russellville 4-2 to advance, stands in the Yellowjackets’ way of a first state championship.
For all the success the 6A-South has attained, Sheridan coach Mike Moore isn’t bragging about it.
“Everybody’s good and it comes down to who gets the lucky break or the one big play that puts you over the top,” he said. “Last year, I think it was all-East (in the final). That stuff about East and South, I don’t put a whole lot of stock in it. I just think it was the way things came down this year all into place that it was three teams from the South. It very well could be three or four teams from the East. It’s just a matter of the way momentum gets going.”
Senior pitcher Landon Huggins sees a benefit from winning the 6A-South for today’s game.
“It just puts in our minds more of a mental image of winning the state championship,” Huggins said. “We have a whole team of seniors, so it’s good to have confidence and not do anything differently.”
El Dorado (23-6, 11-3 in 6A-South) finished one game behind Sheridan (26-6) in the 6A-South, but the Wildcats have dominated the Yellowjackets once this season. El Dorado won 11-1 at home, only for Sheridan to return the favor with an 8-7 feat.
“It’s definitely going to be tough to play a team three times, and this is going to be the rubber match,” first-year Wildcats coach Sam Tyler said. “We have to make sure we play up to our capabilities and not worry about what they did to us. Adrenaline will be a big factor.”
The Jackets may have gotten plenty of adrenaline from Ryan Taylor’s no-hitter against Little Rock Parkview in the first round. Today, Huggins (2.71 ERA) will start on the mound for Sheridan.
“Their pitchers throw a lot of strikes, and we’re going to have to be aggressive,” Tyler said.
Moore said the starting nod would depend on matchups against El Dorado’s batters. Junior left-hander Matthew Hammock leads the Wildcats with a .429 batting average, and senior righty Dylan Smith bats .375. Huggins is a left-handed pitcher, and Finley is a right-hander.
“El Dorado’s definitely the toughest team we’ve played all year,” first baseman Grady Finley said. “Just because of the way they hit the ball.”
Lefty ace Blake Clayton will start on the mound with a 1.75 ERA for El Dorado.
Projected Starting Lineups
3-Ty Owens, CF
1-Josey Langston, SS
25-Blake Clayton, P
22-Dylan Smith, C
10-Clay Hendricks, 2B
5-Ethan Russell, RF
23-Matthew Hammock, DH
4-Jamie Nesbitt, 1B
21-Matthew Lansdale, 3B
17-Clay Henry, LF
14-Nick Ware, SS
12-Alec Pender, CF
6-Jake Smith, C
7-Josh Miller, 3B
4-Grady Finley, 1B
5-Justin Glidden, LF
9-Landon Huggins, P
30-Jake Crenshaw, RF
24-Tyler Raney, 2B