The postseason picture is clear for the Purple’Dogs: Win one, and they’re No. 1.
With two games remaining in 7A-West play, Fayetteville remains atop the league standings with a 10-2 record.
Fayetteville has a nonconference tune-up at home against Stillwater, Okla., at 4:30 p.m. on Friday before wrapping up conference play with two games against Van Buren beginning at 5 p.m. Monday at Bulldogs Stadium.
Van Buren (8-3 in 7A-West) has a make-up game today against Springdale Har-Ber, so the Pointers have three conference games remaining. If they win out to get to 11 wins, which includes a two-game sweep of Fayetteville, they’ll be outright conference champs and earn the No. 1 seed from the 7A-West.
Bentonville (8-4) and Springdale Har-Ber (7-4) can reach 10 wins if both win out. The Tigers need to sweep Bentonville West and the Wildcats need to win their final three games, including the one against Van Buren and two against Rogers Heritage.
There is even a strange scenario where four teams could end up with 10 wins, so Fayetteville can prevent that by simply winning one of its final two league tilts to claim the outright conference title and No. 1 seed for the postseason.
— Mike Capshaw • @NWACappy
The War Eagles (6-18, 2-10 7A-West) have now lost seven of eight after losing twice to Bentonville High earlier this week, but they aren’t mathematically elmiinated from the state tournament just yet.
But with just two games left, a Heritage loss or Springdale win next week would take the War Eagles out. Heritage has won just twice in April, a 5-4 win over Sallisaw, Okla. and 7-4 victory over Farmington. The War Eagles’ last 7A-West win was 2-1 over crosstown rival Rogers High on March 28 in the first game of a doubleheader.
The Mounties (13-11, 6-6 7A-West) continued their winning ways by taking two from Bentonville West earlier this week. Rogers has now won eight of its 10, after losing four of five.
Rogers coach Matt Melson said solid pitching has been a huge key to the Mounties’ success this season, but especially the emergence of senior Mason Mitchell and freshman Matthew Watson.
“I expected McKaden (Templeton) to have a good year,” Melson said. “Because he showed that last year, but Mason Mitchell has kinda come on and been our savior in those second games. He’s kind of snuck up on some people and pounds the strike zone, gives us a chance to get back in the dugout quick. It’s easy to play defense behind him.”
Mitchell is 3-0 in his last three starts, allowing just three earned runs in 19 2/3 innings. The hard-throwing Watson has also been strong out of the bullpen.
“We’ve kinda found a little rhythm there as Matthew has come into some big spots and closed them out,” Melson said. “He’s shown a lot of moxie there. We felt it start to click the last couple weeks, some at the top and some at the bottom. Boy, if we could it all going with the pitching, we’d be a tough out in the tournament.”
“It seems like we’re playing our best baseball now, which is what you want to do. What I’ve been the most proud of this seaosn is we’ve found ways and found spots to improve within the season, which doesn’t happen a lot in high school baseball.”
Offensively, Grayson Lee and Max Horton have been solid, but Luke McFadden has also come on in the No. 2 spot in the batting order, Melson said.
The Mounties finish 7A-West Conference play against Springdale High — a team they are battling for seeding in the state tournament. Rogers hosts the Red Bulldogs, who are 4-8 and a spot below the Mounties in the league standings on Monday.
— Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB