The field conditions were poor, but the Watson Chapel baseball team wasn’t going to forfeit.
The Wildcats had nothing to gain by winning and nothing to lose by dropping Tuesday’s game to Hot Springs, but Watson Chapel head coach Chad Cope said he and his players still wanted to play.
The game was the final home contest for the Wildcats’ seven seniors, but they also have the 5A state tournament starting this week. Cope’s biggest decision came down to home much to play his seniors and other starters, if at all.
“It’s a tough situation,” Cope said. “We’re not forfeiting a game like this that we can play. We’re not introducing that.
“I decided to play all my 10th-graders and give each of my seniors one more at-bat.”
Even with just the one plate appearance apiece, the Wildcat seniors showed why they have gone 51-5 in 5A-South play over the past four years with a 3-2 win in five innings.
Watson Chapel (18-5, 13-1) got things going early in its final tune-up for the state tournament.
Senior Josh Dardenne opened the bottom of the first with a walk and senior Landen Colson followed with a deep drive to center field that was dropped.
Benard Black, who was running for Dardenne, scored easily on the play when the ball got stuck in the mud on the thrown back to the infield. The play was an early indication the game would be called as soon as it became official after 4 ½ innings.
Later in the inning, senior Chris Williams had Chapel’s only hit of the game to single home Trent Marshall, who ran for Colson.
“I wanted to honor them,” Cope said of his seniors. “They know they’ve got bigger things ahead of them, so they understand (not playing the whole game).
“I even told them they could jog out of the box, just this one time.”
Defensively the game was a struggle for both teams as each side had more errors than hits. The pitchers for both squads battled through some tough innings despite the wet baseballs.
Senior Trent Bogy started on the muddy hill for the Wildcats and pitched the first three innings. He allowed a guy to steal home in the second inning, but otherwise pitched well.
Bogy wasn’t blowing the ball by the Trojans (8-14, 3-11), but his movement and slower velocity, though, led to some poor-looking swings.
“Pitching is all about throwing off timing,” Hot Springs coach Brandon Bates said. “It doesn’t matter if you do that by throwing it fast or slow.”
Blake Phillips relieved Bogy and threw a scoreless inning and stranded two runners.
Black followed with an inning of his own. He allowed one run but picked the potential tying run off third base to end the game.
The solid pitching followed up Monday’s combined no-hitter against De Queen that secured he Wildcats an outright conference championship.
Justin Pierce (two innings, five strikeouts), Josh Dardenne (one inning, two strikeouts) and Jaylen Jackson (one inning, four strikeouts) didn’t allow a hit in the 10-0 win.
“We’re not usually a big strikeout team,” Cope said of his pitchers. “But hopefully (Monday) and (Tuesday) gave our pitcher’s some confidence.”
Weather permitting Watson Chapel will play the 5A-Central No. 4 seed Sylvan Hills at 10 a.m. Thursday at Jacksonville in the 5A tournament’s first round.
“I think it’s going to be pretty hard,” Cope said of getting to play on Thursday, “with us playing the first game. I don’t know if they’ll be able to have the field ready in time.
“I would think we’ll more than likely have to play on Friday, but you never know.”