Jack Stroth figured he would be asked to lay down a sacrifice bunt when he came to the plate in the seventh inning Saturday afternoon. Instead, Conway's senior catcher drove in the game winner.
Conway rallied twice in the final two innings to upend Rogers 4-3 in the Class 7A baseball state tournament semifinals at Vince DeSalvo Field in North Little Rock.
The Wampus Cats (21-4) will play Springdale Har-Ber in the championship game at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville on either Friday or Saturday. The time and date of the title game will be determined Monday.
The two teams were never more than one run apart.
"Great game. Two great teams," Conway Coach Noel Boucher said.
And two solid pitching efforts from Wampus Cats' senior lefty Jordan Wicks and Mounties' right-hander Mason Griffin.
Wicks was sailing along with a no-hitter through five innings. He finished with a six-hitter and seven strikeouts. Griffin went 5 2/3 innings, allowing 6 hits while striking out 4.
"Jordan never loses focus. He never gets worried," Stroth said of Wicks. "He's always calm the whole game. That's why I love catching him. He's just awesome."
Griffin gave up four hits in the first two innings, but he set down eight consecutive batters during the fourth, fifth and sixth innings before a walk and consecutive singles forced Rogers Coach Matt Melson to bring in sophomore reliever Matthew Watson.
"[Griffin] had some really tough luck," Melson said. "The first run he gave up was unearned, and he ran out of gas there at the end, but he really kept us in it."
Rogers trailed 1-0 while managing only two base runners through the first five innings, but sophomore Salvador Jacobo -- the Mounties' No. 9 hitter -- ended Wicks' no-hit bid with a double to right field to lead off the sixth.
Senior Jeb Sample followed with a bunt single, and junior Brandon Husted tied the game with a single to left. Two batters later, Watson gave Rogers a 2-1 lead with the fourth hit of the inning.
Conway responded with two runs in the bottom of the sixth. After Stroth struck out and Matt Lloyd lined out to start the inning, Wicks drew a walk. Senior Andrew Hreha reached on an infield single, and both runners advanced on a throwing error.
Senior James Martindale lined a two-run single to right field to give Conway a 3-2 lead.
"To their credit, once the momentum swung in our favor they got it right back," Melson said. "That was just a really good baseball game between two really good teams."
In the seventh, senior Colin McWhorter lined a leadoff single to left, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and to third on a ground ball hit by Jacobo.
Rogers tied the game when Sample's chopper down the first-base line took an unusual hop off of first baseman Cade White's right shoulder for a run-scoring single.
Conway needed only five pitches in the bottom of the seventh to pick up the game winner. James Hicks and Parker Gavazzi both reached on first-pitch singles. A wild pitch advanced the runners, and Stroth reached out to send a wide fastball into right field for the final run by pinch-runner Cade Stuart.
"I was expecting to bunt to allow the next few guys in the lineup to do something with it," Stroth said. "Or if I had the chance I was going to do whatever I could to get that runner to the plate."
"Everybody who plays at this level and this time of year, they are never dead until the last out," Boucher said. "You can't count anybody out, us included. As long as we've got an out, there's no clock running, that's the beauty of baseball."
Sports on 05/13/2018
Print Headline: Seesaw battle tips Conway's way